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BOSTON UNIVERSITY 
LIBRARIES 



From the Library 

of 

Richard Milton Martin 



w 



BACK HOME 



THE WORKS OF 

IRVIN S. COBB 



BACK HOME 

BEING THE NARRATIVE 
OF JUDGE PRIEST 
AND HIS PEOPLE 




The Review of Reviews Corporation 

Publishers New York 

Published by Arrangement with George H. Doran Company 



GoPTklGHT, igil ASD 191a 

Bt Tbk Ccaris PuBuiHiiia Coupaw 



CoPTKIOHT, 191 3 

Bt GsomaB H. Doaas Compaiit 






TO MY MOTHER 




PREFACE 



FTER I came North to live it seemed 
to me, as probably it has seemed to 
many Southern bom men and women 
that the Southerner of fiction as met 
with in the North was generally just that — 
fiction — and nothing else; that in the main 
he was a figment of the drama and of the story 
book; a type that had no just claim on exist- 
ence and , yet a type that was currently 
accepted as a verity. 

From well meaning persons who apparently 
wished to convey an implied compliment for 
the southern part of this republic I was for- 
ever hearing of "southern pride" and "hot 
southern blood" and "old southern families," 
these matters being mentioned always with a 
special emphasis which seemed to betray a 
profound conviction on the part of the speakers 
that there was a certain physical, tangible, 
measurable distinction between, say, the pride 
of a Southerner and the blood-temperature of 

[vii] 



PREFACE 



a Southerner and the pride and blood heat of 
a man whose parents had chosen some other 
part of the United States as a suitable place 
for him to be born in. Had these persons 
spoken of things which I knew to be a part 
and parcel of the Southerner's nature — such 
things for example as his love for his own 
state and his honest veneration for the records 
made by men of southern birth and southern 
blood in the Civil War — I might have under- 
stood them. But seemingly they had never 
heard of those matters. 

I also discovered or thought I discovered 
that as a rule the Southerner as seen on the 
stage or found between the covers of a book 
or a magazine was drawn from a more or less 
imaginary top stratum of southern life, or 
else from a bottom-most stratum — either he 
purported to be an elderly, un-reconstructed, 
high-tempered gentleman of highly aristocratic 
tendencies residing in a feudal state of shabby 
grandeur and proud poverty on a plantation 
gone to seed; or he purported to be a pure 
white of the poorest. With a few exceptions 
the playwright and the story writers were 
not taking into account sundry millions of 
southern born people who were neither venera- 
ble and fiery colonels with frayed wrist bands 
and limp collars, nor yet were they snuff- 

I viii ] 



PREFACE 



dipping, ginseng-digging clay-eaters, but just 
such folk as allowing for certain temperamental 
differences — created by climate and soil and 
tradition and by two other main contributing 
causes: the ever-present race question and the 
still living and vivid memories of the great 
war — might be found as numerously in Iowa 
or Indiana or any other long-settled, typically 
American commonwealth as in Tennessee or 
Georgia or Mississippi, having the same aspira- 
tions, the same blood in their veins, the same 
impulses and being prone under almost any 
conceivable condition to do the same thing in 
much the same way. 

Viewing my own state and my own people 
across the perspective of time and distance I 
had the ambition to set down on paper, as faith- 
fully as I might, a representation of those people 
as I knew them. By this I do not mean to de- 
clare that I sensed any audible and visible 
demand for such a piece of writing; so far as I 
know there has been no such demand. It was 
my own notion solely. I wanted, if I could, 
to describe what I believed to be an average 
southern community so that others might see 
it as I had seen it. This book is the result of 
that desire. 

For my material I draw upon the life of 
that community as I remembered it. Most of 

[ix] 



PREFAC E 

the characters that figure in the events herein- 
after described were copies, to the best of my 
ability as a copyist, of real models; and for 
some of the events themselves there was 
in the first place a fairly substantial basis of 
fact. 

Having such an aim I wrote what I con- 
ceived to be a series of pictures, out of the 
life of a town in the western part of Kentucky; 
that part of Kentucky which gave to the 
nation among others, Abraham Lincoln and 
Jefferson Davis. These pictures fell into 
the form of inter-related stories, and as 
such were first printed in the Saturday Even- 
ing Post, They are now offered here as a 
whole. 

I. S. C. 

New Yobk, November, 1912. . 



U] 





CONTENTS 





CHAPTER PAQB 

I. WORDS AND MUSIC 3 

n. THE COUNTY TROT 3"? 

in. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD . . 70 

IV. A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL ... 102 

V. UP CLAY STREET 131 

VI. WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD . . 167 

VII. STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 201 

Vin. THE MOB FROM MASSAC £46 

IX. A DOGGED UNDER DOG 284 

X. BLACK AND WHITE SIJ 



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I 

WORDS AND MUSIC 




"HEN Breck Tandy killed a man he 
made a number of mistakes. In 
the first place, he killed the most 
popular man in Forked Deer 
County — the county clerk, a man named 
Abner J. Rankin. In the second place, he 
killed him with no witnesses present, so that 
it stood his word — and he a newcomer and a 
stranger — against the mute, eloquent accu- 
sation of a riddled dead man. And in the 
third place, he sent north of the Ohio River 
for a lawyer to defend him. 



On the first Monday in June — Court Mon- 
day — the town filled up early. Before the 
field larks were out of the grass the farmers 
were tying their teams to the gnawed hitch- 
racks along the square. By nine o'clock the 
swapping ring below the wagonyard was swim- 
ming in red dust and clamorous with the chaffer 
of the horse-traders. In front of a vacant 



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store the Ladies' Aid Society of Zion Baptist 
Church had a canvas sign out, announcing that 
an elegant dinner would be served for twenty- 
five cents from twelve to one, also ice cream 
and cake all day for fifteen cents. 

The narrow wooden sidewalks began to 
creak and churn under the tread of many 
feet, A long-haired medicine doctor emerged 
from his frock-coat like a locust coming out 
of its shell, pushed his high hat off his fore- 
head and ranged a guitar, sundry bottles of a 
potent mixture, his tooth-pulling forceps, and 
a trick-handkerchief upon the narrow shelf 
of his stand alongside the Drummers' Home 
Hotel. In front of the little dingy tent of the 
Half Man and Half Horse a yellow negro sat 
on a split-bottom chair limbering up for a hard 
day. This yellow negro was an artist. He 
played a common twenty-cent mouth organ, 
using his left hand to slide it back and forth 
across his spread lips. The other hand held 
a pair of polished beef bones, such as end men 
wield, and about the wrist was buckled a broad 
leather strap \\dth three big sleigh-bells riveted 
loosely to the leather, so that he could clap 
the bones and shake the bells with the same 
motion. He was a whole orchestra in himself. 
He could play on his mouth organ almost any 
tune you wanted, and with his bones and his 
bells to help out he could creditably imitate 
a church organ, a fife-and-drum corps, or, 
indeed, a full brass band. He had his chair 

[4] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



tilted back until his woolly head dented a 
draggled banner depicting in five faded primary 
colors the physical attractions of the Half 
Man and Half Horse — Marvel of the Century 
— and he tested his mouth organ with short, 
mellow, tentative blasts as he waited until the 
Marvel and the Marvel's manager finished a 
belated breakfast within and the first ballyhoo 
could start. He was practicing the newest 
of the ragtime airs to get that far South. The 
name of it was The Georgia Camp-Meeting. 
The town marshal in his shirt sleeves, with 
a big silver shield pinned to the breast of his 
unbuttoned blue waistcoat and a hickory stick 
with a crook handle for added emblem of 
authority, stalked the town drunkard, fair 
game at all seasons and especially on Court 
Monday. The town gallant whirled back and 
forth the short hilly length of Main Street in his 
new side-bar buggy. A clustering group of 
negroes made a thick, black blob, like hiving 
bees, in front of a negro fishhouse, from which 
came the smell and sounds of perch and channel 
cat frying on spitting-hot skillets. High up 
on the squat cupola of the courthouse a red- 
headed woodpecker clung, barred in crimson, 
white, and blue-black, like a bit of living bunt- 
ing, engaged in the hopeless task of trying to 
drill through the tin sheathing. The rolling 
rattle of his beak's tattoo came down sharply 
to the crowds below. Mourning doves called 
to one another in the trees round the red-brick 



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courthouse, and at ten o'clock, when the sun 
was high and hot, the sheriff came out and, 
standing between two hollow white pillars, 
rapped upon one of them with a stick and called 
upon all witnesses and talesmen to come 
into court for the trial of John Breckinridge 
Tandy, charged with murder in the first degree, 
against the peace and dignity of the common- 
wealth of Tennessee and the statutes made and 
provided. 

But this ceremonial by the sheriff was for 
form rather than effect, since the witnesses and 
the talesmen all sat in the circuit-court chamber 
along with as many of the population of Forked 
Deer County as could squeeze in there. Aheady 
the air of the crowded chamber was choky with 
heat and rancid with smell. Men were perched 
precariously in the ledges of the windows. 
More men were ranged in rows along the 
plastered walls, clunking their heels against 
the cracked wooden baseboards. The two 
front rows of benches were full of women. For 
this w^as to be the big case of the June term — 
a better show by long odds than the Half Man 
and HaK Horse. 

Inside the low railing that divided the room 
and on the side nearer the jury box were the 
forces of the defense. Under his skin the 
prisoner showed a sallow paleness born of his 
three months in the county jail. He was tall 
and dark and steady eyed, a young man, well 
under thirty. He gave no heed to those who 

[6] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



sat in packed rows behind him, wishing him evil. 
He kept his head turned front, only bending it 
sometimes to whisper with one of his lawyers 
or one of his witnesses. Frequently, though, 
his hand went out in a protecting, reassuring 
way to touch his wife's brown hair or to rest a 
moment on her small shoulder. She was a 
plain, scared, shrinldng Kttle thing. The fingers 
of her thin hands were plaited desperately 
together in her lap. Already she was trembling. 
Once in a while she would raise her face, showing 
shallow brown eyes dilated with fright, and 
then sink her head again like a quail trying 
to hide. She looked pitiable and lonely. 

The chief attorney for the defense was half 
turned from the small counsel table where he 
might study the faces of the crowd. He was 
from Middle Indiana, serving his second term 
in Congress. If his party held control of the 
state he would go to the Senate after the next 
election. He was an orator of parts and a 
pleader of almost a national reputation. He 
had manly grace and he was a fine, upstanding 
figure of a man, and before now he had wrung 
victories out of many difficult cases. But he 
chilled to his finger-nails with apprehensions of 
disaster as he glanced searchingly about the 
close-packed room. 

Wherever he looked he saw no friendliness 
at all. He could feel the hostility of that 
crowd as though it had substance and body. 
It was a tangible thing; it was almost a physical 

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thing. Why, you could almost put your hand 
out and touch it. It was everywhere there. 

And it focussed and was summed up in the 
person of Aunt Tilly Haslett, rearing on the 
very front bench with her husband, Uncle 
Fayette, haif hidden behind her vast and over- 
flowing bulk. Aunt Tilly made public opinion 
in Hyattsville. Indeed she was public opinion 
in that town. In her it had its up-comings and 
its out-flowings. She held herself bolt upright, 
filling out the front of her black bombazine 
basque until the buttons down its front strained 
at their buttonholes. With wide, deliberate 
strokes she fanned herself with a palm-leaf fan. 
The fan had an edging of black tape sewed 
round it — black tape signifying in that com- 
munity age or mourning, or both. Her jaw 
was set like a steel latch, and her httle gray 
eyes behind her steel-bowed specs were leveled 
with a baleful, condemning glare that included 
the strange lawyer, his cHent, his client's wife, 
and all that was his client's. 

Congressman Durham looked and knew that 
his presence wa^ an affront to Aunt Tilly and 
all those who sat with her; that his somewhat 
vivid tie, his silken shirt, his low tan shoes, 
his new suit of gray flannels — a masterpiece 
of the best tailor in IndianapoHs — were as 
insults, added up and piled on, to this sus- 
pendered, gingham-shirted constituency. Better 
than ever he reahzed now the stark hopelessness 
of the task to which his hands were set. And 



18] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



he dreaded what was commg almost as much 
for himself as for the man he was hired to defend. 
But he was a trained veteran of courtroom 
campaigns, and there was a jauntily assumed 
confidence in his bearing as he swung himself 
about and made a brisk show of conferring with 
the local attorney who was to aid him in the 
choosing of the jurors and the questioning of 
the witnesses. 

But it was real confidence and real jauntiness 
that radiated from the other wing of the in- 
closure, where the prosecutor sat with the 
assembled bar of Forked Deer County on his 
flanks, volunteers upon the favored side, lending 
to it the moral support of weight and numbers. 
Rankin, the dead man, having been a bachelor, 
State's Attorney Gilliam could bring no lorn 
widow and children to mourn before the jurors' 
eyes and win added sympathy for his cause. 
Lacking these most valued assets of a murder 
trial he supplied their places with the sisters 
of the dead man — two sparse-built elderly 
women in heavy black, with sweltering thick 
veils down over their faces. When the proper 
time came he would have them raise these veils 
and show their woeful faces, but now they sat 
shrouded all in crepe, fit figures of desolation 
and sorrow. He fussed about busily, fiddling 
the quill toothpick that hung perilously in the 
corner of his mouth and evening up the edges 
of a pile of law books with freckled caKskin 
covers. He was a lank, bony garfish of a man, 

w 



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with a white goatee aggressively protruding 
from his lower lip. He was a poor speaker but 
mighty as a cross-examiner, and he was serving 
his first term and was a candidate for another. 
He wore the official garbing of special and 
extraordinary occasions — long black coat and 
limp white waistcoat and gray striped trousers, 
a trifle short in the legs. He felt the importance 
of his place here almost visibly — his figure 
swelled and expanded out his clothes. 

"Look yonder at Tom Gilliam," said Mr. 
Lukins, the grocer, in tones of whispered admi- 
ration to his next-elbow neighbor, "jest prunin' 
and honin' hisse'f to git at that there Tandy 
and his dude Yankee lawyer. If he don't 
chaw both of 'em up together I'll be dad- 
burned." 

"You bet," whispered back his neighbor — 
it was Aunt Tilly's oldest son, Fayette, Junior 
— "it's like Maw says — time's come to teach 
them murderin' Kintuckians they can't be 
a-comin' down here a-kilhn' up people and not 
pay for it. I reckon, Mr. Lukins," added 
Fayette, Junior, with a wriggle of pleased 
anticipation, "we shore are goin' to see some 
carryin's-on in this cotehouse today." 

Mr. Lukins' reply was lost to history because 
just then the judge entered — an elderly, 
kindly-looking man — from his chambers in 
the rear, with the circuit-court clerk right 
behind him bearing large leather-clad books and 
sheaves of foolscap paper. Their coming made 

[10] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



a bustle. Aunt Tilly squared herself forward, 
scrooging Uncle Fayette yet farther into the 
eclipse of her shapeless figure. The prisoner 
raised his head and eyed his judge. His wife 
looked only at the interlaced, weaving fingers ', 
in her lap. 

The formalities of the opening of a term of 
court were mighty soon over; there was every- 
where manifest a haste to get at the big thing. 
The clerk called the case of the Commonwealth 
versus Tandy. Both sides were ready. Through 
the local lawyer, delegated for these smaller 
purposes, the accused man pleaded not guilty. 
The clerk spun the jury wheel, which was a 
painted wooden drum on a creaking wooden 
axle, and drew forth a slip of paper with the 
name of a talesman written upon it and read 
aloud : 

"Isom W. Tolliver." 

In an hour the jury was complete: two towns- 
men, a clerk and a telegraph operator, and ten 
men from the country — farmers mainly and 
one blacksmith and one horse-trader. Three 
of the panel who owned up frankly to a fixed 
bias had been let go by consent of both sides. 
Three more were sure they could give the 
defendant a fair trial, but those three the local 
lawyer had challenged peremptorily. The others 
were accepted as they came. The foreman was 
a brownskinned, sparrowhawk-looking old man, 
with a smoldering brown eye. He had spare, 
knotted hands, like talons, and the right one 

[11] 



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was marred and twisted, with a sprayed bluish 
scar in the midst of the crippled knuckles like 
the mark of an old gunshot wound. Juror 
No. 4 was a stodgy old man, a small planter 
from the back part of the county, who fanned 
himself steadily with a brown-vamished straw 
hat. No. 7 was even older, a white- whiskered 
patriarch on crutches. The twelfth juryman 
was the oldest of the twelve — he looked to be 
almost seventy, but he went into the box after 
he had sworn that his sight and hearing and 
general health were good and that he still 
could do his ten hours a day at his blacksmith 
shop. This juryman chewed tobacco without 
pause. Twice after he took his seat at the 
back end of the double line he tried for a 
wooden cuspidor ten feet away. Both were 
creditable attempts, but he missed each time. 
Seeing the look of gathering distress in his eyes 
the sheriff brought the cuspidor nearer, and 
thereafter No. 12 was content, chewing steadily 
like some bearded contemplative ruminant and 
listening attentively to the evidence, mean- 
while scratching a very wiry head of whity-red 
hair with a thumbnail that through some injury 
had taken on the appearance of a very thick, 
very black Brazil nut. This scratching made 
a raspy, filing sound that after a while got on 
Congressman Durham's nerves. 

It was late in the afternoon when the prose- 
cution rested its case and court adjourned until 
the following morning. The state's attorney 

[12] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



had not had so very much evidence to offer, 
really — the testimony of one who heard the 
single shot and ran in at Rankin's door to find 
Rankin upon the floor, about dead, with a pistol, 
unfired, in his hand and Tandy standing against 
; the wall with a pistol, fired, in his; the constable 
to whom Tandy surrendered; the physician 
who examined the body; the persons who knew 
of the quarrel between Tandy and Rankin 
growing out of a land deal into which they had 
gone partners — not much, but enough for 
Gilliam's purposes. Once in the midst of 
examining a witness the state's attorney, 
seemingly by accident, let his look fall upon the 
two black-robed, silent figures at his side, and 
as though overcome by the sudden realization 
of a great grief, he faltered and stopped dead 
and sank down. It was an old trick, but well 
done, and a little humming murmur like a 
breeze coming through treetops swept the 
audience. 

Durham was sick in his soul as he came away. 
In his mind there stood the picture of a little, 
scared woman's drawn, drenched face. She 
had started crying before the last juror was 
chosen and thereafter all day, at haK-minute 
intervals, the big, hard sobs racked her. As 
Durham came down the steps he had almost 
to shove his wa,y through a knot of natives out- 
side the doors. They grudged him the path 
they made for him, and as he showed them his 
back he heard a snicker and some one said a 



IIS] 



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thing that cut him where he was already bruised 
— in his egotism. But he gave no heed to the 
words. What was the use? 

At the Drummers' Home Hotel a darky 
waiter sustained a profound shock when the 
imported lawyer declined the fried beefsteak 
with fried potatoes and also the fried ham and 
eggs. Mastering his surprise the waiter offered 
to try to get the Northern gentleman a fried 
pork chop and some fried June apples, but 
Durham only wanted a glass of milk for his 
supper. He drank it and smoked a cigar, 
and about dusk he went upstairs to his room. 
There he found assembled the forlorn rank and 
file of the defense, the local lawyer and three 
character witnesses — prominent citizens from 
Tandy's home town who were to testify to 
his good repute in the place where he was bom 
and reared. These would be the only witnesses, 
except Tandy himself, that Durham meant to 
call. One of them was a bustling little man 
named Felsburg, a clothing merchant, and one 
was Colonel Quigley, a banker and an ex-mayor, 
and the third was a Judge Priest, who sat on 
a circuit-court bench back in Kentucky. In 
contrast to his size, which was considerable, 
this Judge Priest had a voice that was high and 
whiny. He also had the trick, common to many 
men in politics in his part of the South, of 
being purposely ungrammatical at times. 

This mannerism led a lot of people into think- 
ing that the judge must be an uneducated man 

[14] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



— until they heard him charging a jury or 
reading one of his ruhngs. The judge had 
other pecuHarities. In conversation he nearly 
always called men younger than himself, son. 
He drank a little bit too much sometimes; 
and nobody had ever beaten him for any 
office he coveted. Durham didn't know what 
to make of this old judge — sometimes he 
seemed simple-minded to the point of child- 
ishness almost. 

The others were gathered about a table by 
a lighted kerosene lamp, but the old judge sat 
at an open window with his low-quarter shoes 
off and his white-socked feet propped against 
the ledge. He was industriously stoking at a 
home-made corncob pipe. He pursed up his 
mouth, pulling at the long cane stem of his pipe 
with little audible sucks. From the rocky 
little street below the clatter of departing farm 
teams came up to him. The Indian medicine 
doctor was taking down his big white umbrella 
and packing up his regalia. The late canvas 
habitat of the Half Man and Half Horse had 
been struck and was gone, leaving only the 
pole-holes in the turf and a trodden space to 
show where it had stood. Court would go on 
all week, but Court Monday was over and for 
another month the town would doze along 
peacefully. 

Durham slumped himself into a chair that 
screeched protestingly in all its infirm joints. 
The heart was gone clean out of him. 

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"I don't understand these people at all," 
he confessed. "We're beating against a stone 
wall with our bare hands." 

"If it should be money now that you're 
needing, Mister Ehirham," spoke up Felsburg, 
"that boy Tandy's father was my very good 
friend when I first walked into that town with 
a peddling pack on my back, and if it should 
be money .^" 

"It isn't money, Mr. Felsburg," said Dur- 
ham. "If I didn't get a cent for my services 
I'd still fight this case out to the end for the 
sake of that game boy and that poor little mite 
of a wife of his. It isn't money or the lack of 
it — it's the damned hate they've built up 
here against the man. V/hy, you could cut 
it off in chunks — the prejudice that there was 
in that courthouse today." 

"Son," put in Judge Priest in his high, weedy 
voice, "I reckon maybe you're right. I've 
been projectin' around cotehouses a good many 
years, and I've taken notice that when a jury 
look at a prisoner all the time and never look 
at his women folks it's a monstrous bad sign. 
And that's the way it was all day today." 

"The judge will be fair — he always is,'* 
said Hightower, the local lawyer, "and of course 
Gilliam is only doing his duty. Those jurors are 
as good solid men as you can find in this country 
anywhere. But they can't help being preju- 
diced. Human nature's not strong enough to 
stand out against the feeling that's grown up 

[161 



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round here against Tandy since he shot Ab 
Rankin." 

"Son," said Judge Priest, still with his eyes on 
the darkening square below, *' about how many 
of them jurors would you say are old soldiers?" 

"Four or five that I know of," said High- 
tower — "and maybe more. It's hard to find 
a man over fifty years old in this section that 
didn't see active service in the Big War." 

"Ah, hah," assented Judge Priest with a 
squeaky httle grunt, "That foreman now — 
he looked Hke he might of seen some fightin'.^^" 

"Four years of it," said Hightower. "He 
came out a captain in the cavalry." 

"Ah, hah." Judge Priest sucked at his pipe. 

"Herman," he wheezed back over his 
shoulder to Felsburg, "did you notice a tall 
sort of a saddle-colored darky playing a juice 
harp in front of that there sideshow as we 
came along up? I reckon that nigger could 
play almost any tune you'd a mind to hear him 
play?" 

At a time like this Durham was distinctly 
not interested in the versatilities of strange 
negroes in this corner of the world. He kept 
silent, shrugging his shoulders petulantly. 

"I wonder now is that nigger left town yet?'* 
mused the old judge half to himself. 

"I saw him just a while ago going down 
toward the depot," volunteered Hightower. 
"There's a train out of here for Memphis at 
8:50. It's about twenty minutes of that now." 

[17] 



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**Ah, hah, jest about," assented the judge^ 
When the judge said "Ah, hah!" Uke that it 
sounded like the striking of a fiddle-bow across 
a fiddle's tautened E-string. 

"Well, boys," he went on, "we've all got to 
do the best we can for Breck Tandv, ain't we? 
Say, son"^ — this was aimed at Durham— "I'd 
like mightily for you to put me on the stand 
the last one tomorrow. You wait until you're 
through with Herman and Colonel Quigley 
here, before you call me. And if I should seem 
to ramble somewhat in giving my testimony — 
why, son, you just let me ramble, will you? I 
know these people down here better maybe 
than you do — and if I should seem inclined 
to ramble, just let me go ahead and don't stop 
me, please?" 

"Judge Priest," said Durham tartly, "if you 
think it could possibly do any good, ramble all 
you like." 

"Much obliged," said the old judge, and he 
struggled into his low-quarter shoes and stood 
up, dusting the tobacco fluff off himseff. 

"Herman have you got any loose change 
about you?" 

Felsburg nodded and reached into his pocket. 
The judge made a discriminating selection of 
silver and bills from the handful that the 
merchant extended to him across the table. 

"I'll take about ten dollars," he said. "I 
didn't come down here with more than enough 
to jest about buy my railroad ticket and pay 

[181 



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my bill at this here tavern, and I might want 
a sweetenin' dram or somethin'." 

He pouched his loan and crossed the room. 

"Boys," he said, "I think I'll be knockin' 
round a little before I turn in. Herman, I may 
stop by your room a minute as I come back in. 
You boys better turn in early and git your- 
selves a good night's sleep. We are all liable 
to be purty tolerable busy tomorrow." 

After he was outside he put his head back in 
the door and said to Durham: 

"Remember, son, I may ramble." 

Durham nodded shortly, being somewhat 
put out by the vagaries of a mind that could 
•concern itself with trivial things on the immi- 
nent eve of a crisis. 

As the judge creaked ponderously along the 
hall and down the stairs those he had left 
behind heard him whistling a tune to himself, 
making false starts at the air and halting often 
to correct his meter. It was an unknown tune 
to them all, but to Felsburg, the oldest of the 
four, it brought a vague, unplaced memory. 

The old judge was whistling when he reached 
the street. He stood there a minute until he 
had mastered the tune to his own satisfaction, 
and then, still whistling, he shuffled along the 
uneven board pavement, which, after rippling 
up and down like a broken -backed snake, dipped 
downward to a h'ttle railroad station at the 
foot of the street. 



[19] 



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In the morning nearly half the town — the 
white half — came to the trial, and enough of 
the black half to put a dark hem, like a mourn- 
ing border, across the back width of the court- 
room. Except that Main Street now drowsed 
in the heat where yesterday it had buzzed, this 
day might have been the day before. Again 
the resolute woodpecker drove his bloodied 
head with unimpaired energy against the tin 
sheathing up above. It was his third summer 
for that same cupola and the tin was pocked 
with little dents for three feet up and down. 
The mourning doves still pitched their lament- 
ing note back and forth across the courthouse 
yard ; and in the dewberry patch at the bottom 
of Aunt Tilly Haslett's garden down by the 
creek the meadow larks strutted in buff and 
yellow, with crescent-shaped gorgets of black 
at their throats, like Old Continentals, send- 
ing their clear-piped warning of "Laziness 
g'wine kill you!" in at the open windows of the 
steamy, smelly courtroom. 

The defense lost no time getting under head- 
way. As his main witness Durham called the 
prisoner to testify in his own behalf. Tandy 
gave his version of the killing with a frankness 
and directness that would have carried con- 
viction to auditors more even-minded in their 
sympathies. He had gone to Rankin's office 
in the hope of bringing on a peaceful settlement 
of their quarrel. Rankin had flared up; had 
cursed him and advanced on him, making 

[20] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



threats. Both of them reached for their guns 
then. Rankin's was the first out, but he fired 
first — that was all there was to it. Gilliam 
shone at cross-examination; he went at Tandy 
savagely, taking hold like a snapping turtle 
and hanging on like one. 

He made Tandy admit over and over again: 
that he carried a pistol habitually. In a com- 
munity where a third of the male adult popula- 
tion went armed this admission was nevertheless 
taken as plain evidence of a nature bloody- 
minded and desperate. It would have been 
just as bad for Tandy if he said he armed himself 
especially for his visit to Rankin — to these 
listeners that could have meant nothing else 
but a deliberate, murderous intention. Either 
way Gilliam had him, and he sweated in his 
eagerness to bring out the significance of the 
point. A sinister little murmuring sound, 
vibrant with menace, went purring from bench 
to bench when Tandy told about his piste) - 
carrying habit. 

The cross-examination dragged along for 
hours. The recess for dinner interrupted it; 
then it went on again, Gilliam worrying at 
Tandy, goading at him, catching him up and 
twisting his words. Tandy would not be shaken, 
but twice under the manhandling he lost his 
temper and lashed back at Gilliam, which was 
precisely what Gilliam most desired. A flary 
fiery man, prone to violent outbursts — that was 
the inference he could draw from these blaze-ups. 

mi 



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It was getting on toward five o'clock before 
Gilliam finally let his bedeviled enemy quit 
the witness-stand and go back to his place 
between his wife and his lawyer. As for Dur- 
ham, he had little more to offer. He called on 
Mr. Felsburg, and Mr. Felsburg gave Tandy a 
good name as man and boy in his home town. 
He called on Banker Quigley, who did the same 
thing in different words. For these character 
witnesses State's Attorney Gilliam had few 
questions. The case was as good as won now, 
he figured; he could taste already his victory 
over the famous lawyer from up North, and he 
was greedy to hurry it forward. 

The hot round hub of a sun had wheeled low 
enough to dart its thin red spokes in through 
the westerly windows when Durham called his 
last witness. As Judge Priest settled himself 
solidly in the witness chair with the deliberation 
of age and the heft of flesh, the leveled rays 
caught him full and lit up his round pink face, 
with the short white-bleached beard below it 
and the bald white-bleached forehead above 
Durham eyed him half doubtfully. He looked 
the image of a scatter-witted old man, who 
1 would potter and philander round a long time 
before he ever came to the point of anything. 
So he appeared to the others there, too. But 
what Durham did not sense was that the homely 
simplicity of the old man was of a piece with the 
picture of the courtroom, that he would seem 
to these watching, hostile people one of their 

[22] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



own kind, and that they would give to him in 
all likelihood a sympathy and understanding 
that had been denied the clothing merchant and 
the broadclothed banker. 

He wore a black alpaca coat that slanted upon 
him in deep, longitudinal folds, and the front 
skirts of it were twisted and pulled downward 
until they dangled in long, wrinkly black 
teats. His shapeless gray trousers were short 
for him and fitted his pudgy legs closely. Below 
them dangled a pair of stout ankles encased in 
white cotton socks and ending in low-quarter 
black shoes. His shirt was clean but wrinkled 
countlessly over his front. The gnawed and 
blackened end of a cane pipestem stood out of 
his breast pocket, rising like a frosted weed stalk. 

He settled himself back in the capacious oak 
chair, balanced upon his knees a white straw 
hat with a string band round the crown and 
waited for the question. 

"What is your name?" asked Durham. 

"William Pitman Priest." 

Even the voice somehow seemed to fit the 
setting. Its high nasal note had a sort of 
whimsical appeal to it. 

""VMien and where were you born?" 

"In Calloway County, Kintucky, July £7, 
1839." 

"WTiat is your profession or business?" 

"I am an attorney-at-law." 

"What position if any do you hold in your 
native state?" 



[23] 



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"I am presidin' judge of the first judicial 
district of the state of Kmtucky." 

"And have you been so long?" 

*'For the past sixteen years." 

"When were you admitted to the bar?" 

"In 1860." 

" And you have ever since been engaged, I take 
it, either in the practice of the law before the 
bar or in its administration from the bench?" 

"Exceptin' for the four years from April, 
1861, to June, 1865." 

Up until now Durham had been sparring, 
trying to fathom the probable trend of the old 
judge's expected meanderings. But in the 
answer to the last question he thought he caught 
the cue and, though none save those two knew 
it, thereafter it was the witness who led and the 
questioner who followed his lead bhndly. 

"And where were you during those four 
years.'' 

"I was engaged, suh, in takin* part in the 
war." 

"The War of the Rebelhon?" 

"No, suh," the old man corrected him gently 
but with firmness, "the War for the Southern 
Confederacy." 

There was a least bit of a stir at this. Aunt 
Tilly's tape-edged palmleaf blade hovered a 
brief second in the wide regular arc of its sweep 
and the foreman of the jury involuntarily 
ducked his head, as if in aflSance of an indubi- 
table fact. " 



[24] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



"Ahem!" said Durham, still feeling his way, 
although now he saw the path more clearly. 
"And on which side were you engaged?" 

"I was a private soldier in the Southern 
army," the old judge answered him, and as he 
spoke he straightened up. 

"Yes, suh," he repeated, "for four years I 
was a private soldier in the late Southern Con- 
federacy. Part of the time I was down here 
in this very country," he went on as though 
he had just recalled that part of it. "Why, in 
the summer of '64 I was right here in this 
town. And until yistiddy I hadn't been back 



smce. 



He turned to the trial judge and spoke to him 
with a tone and manner half apologetic, half 
confidential. 

"Your Honor," he said, "I am a judge my- 
self, occupyin' in my home state a position very 
similar to the one which you fill here, and whilst 
I realize, none better, that this ain't all accordin' 
to the rules of evidence as laid down in the 
books, yet when I git to thinkin' about them 
old soldierin' times I find I am inclined to sort 
of reminiscence round a little. And I trust 
your Honor will pardon me if I should seem to 
ramble slightly?" 

His tone was more than apologetic and more 
than confidential. It was winning. The judge 
upon the bench was a veteran himself. He 
looked toward the prosecutor. 

"Has the state's attorney any objection to 

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this line of testimony?" he asked, smiling a 
little. 

Certainly GilKam had no fear that this honest- 
appearing old man's wanderings could damage 
a ease already as good as won. He smiled 
back indulgently and waved his arm with a 
gesture that was compounded of equal parts of 
toleration and patience, with a top-dressing 
of contempt. "I fail," said Gilliam, "to see 
wherein the military history and achievements 
of this worthy gentleman can possibly affect 
the issue of the homicide of Abner J. Rankin. 
But," he added magnanimously, "if the defense 
chooses to encumber the record with matters 
so trifling and irrelevant I surely will make no 
objection now or hereafter." 

"The witness may proceed," said the judge. 

"Well, really, Your Honor, I didn't have so 
very much to say," confessed Judge Priest, 
**and I didn't expect there'd be any to-do made 
over it. What I was trying to git at was that 
comin' down here to testify in this case sort of 
brought back them old days to my mind. As 
I git along more in years — "he was looking 
toward the jurors now — "I find that I live 
more and more in the past." 

As though he had put a question to them 
several of the jurors gravely inclined their 
heads. The busy cud of Juror No. 12 moved 
just a trifle slower in its travels from the right 
side of the jaw to the left and back again. 

"Yes, suh," he said musingly, "I got up early 

[26] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



this mornin' at the tavern where I'm stoppin' 
and took a walk through your thrivin' Httle 
city." This was rambhng with a vengeance, 
thought the puzzled Durham. " I walked down 
here to a bridge over a Httle creek and back 
again. It reminded me mightily of that other 
time when I passed through this town — in '64* 
— just about this season of the year — and 
it was hot early today just as it was that other 
time — and the dew was thick on the grass, 
the same as 'twas then." 

He halted a moment. 

"Of course your town didn't look the same 
this mornin' as it did that other mornin'. It 
seemed like to me there are twicet as many 
houses here now as there used to be — it's got 
to be quite a httle city." 

Mr. Lukins, the grocer, nodded silent ap- 
proval of this utterance, Mr. Lukins having but 
newly completed and moved into a two-story 
brick store building with a tin cornice and an 
outside staircase. 

"Yes, suh, your town has grown mightily, 
but" — and the whiny, humorous voice grew 
apologetic again — "but your roads are purty 
much the same as they were in '64 — hilly 
in places — and kind of rocky." 

Durham found himself sitting still, listening 
hard. Everybody else was listening too. Sud- 
denly it struck Durham, almost like a blow, 
that this simple old man had somehow laid a 
sort of spell upon them all. The flattening 



BACK HOME 



sunrays made a kind of pink glow about the old 
judge's face, touching gently his bald head and 
his white whiskers. He droned on: 

"I remember about those roads particularly 
well, because that time when I marched through 
here in '64 my feet was about out of my shoes 
and them flints cut 'em up some. Some of the 
boys, I recollect, left bloody prints in the dust 
behind 'em. But shucks — it wouldn't a-made 
no real difference if we'd wore the bottoms 
plum off our feet! We'd a-kept on goin'. 
We'd a-gone anywhere — or tried to — behind 
old Bedford Forrest." 

Aunt Tilly's palmleaf halted in air and the 
twelfth juror's faithful quid froze in his cheek 
and stuck there like a small wen. Except for 
a general hunching forward of shoulders and 
heads there was no movement anywhere and 
no sound except the voice of the witness : 

"Old Bedford Forrest hisself was leadin' 
us, and so naturally we just went along with 
him, shoes or no shoes. There was a regiment 
of Northern troops — Yankees — marchin' on 
this town that mornin', and it seemed the word 
had traveled ahead of 'em that they was aimin' 
to burn it down. 

"Probably it wasn't true. WTien we got 
to know them Yankees better afterward we 
found out that there really wasn't no difference, 
to speak of, between the run of us and the run 
of them. Probably it wasn't so at all. But 
in them days the people was prone to believe 

[^1 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



'most anything — about Yankees — and the 
word was that they was comin' across country, 
a-burnm' and cuttin' and slashin,' and the 
people here thought they was going to be burned 
out of house and home. So old Bedford Forrest 
he marched all night with a battalion of us — 
four companies — Kintuckians and Tennes- 
^eeans mostly, with a sprinklin' of boys from 
Mississippi and Arkansas — some of us ridin' 
and some walkin' afoot, like me — we didn't 
always have horses enough to go round that 
last year. And somehow we got here before 
they did. It was a close race though between 
us — them a-comin' down from the North and 
us a-comin' up from the other way. We met 
'em down there by that little branch just below 
where your present railroad depot is. There 
wasn't no depot there then, but the branch 
looks just the same now as it did then — and 
the bridge too. I walked acros't it this mornin' 
to see. Yes, suh, right there was where we 
met 'em. And there was a right smart fight. 

"Yes, suh, there was a right smart fight for 
about twenty minutes — or maybe twenty- 
five — and then we had breakfast." 

He had been smiling gently as he went along. 
Now he broke into a throaty little chuckle. 

"Yes, suh, it all come back tame this mornin' 
— every little bit of it — the breakfast and all. 
I didn't have much breakfast, though, as I 
recall — none of us did — probably just corn 
pone and branch water to wash it down with." 

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And he wiped his mouth with the back of his 
hand as though the taste of the gritty cornmeal 
cakes was still there. 

There was another Httle pause here; the 
witness seemed to be through. Durham's 
crisp question cut the silence like a gash with a 
knife. 

"Judge Priest, do you know the defendant 
at the bar, and if so, how well do you know 
him?" 

"I was just comin' to that," he answered 
with simplicity, "and I'm obliged to you for 
puttin' me back on the track. Oh, I know the 
defendant at the bar mighty well — as well as 
anybody on earth ever did know him, I reckin, 
unless 'twas his o\\ti maw and paw. I've 
known him, in fact, from the time he was born 

— and a gentler, better-disposed boy never 
grew up in our town. His nature seemed almost 
too sweet for a boy — more like a girl's — but 
as a grown man he was always manly, and honest, 
and fair — and not quarrelsome. Oh, yes, I 
know him. I knew his father and his mother 
before him. It's a funny thing too — comin' 
up this way — but I remember that his paw was 
marchin' right alongside of me the day we came 
through here in '64. He was wounded, his 
paw was, right at the edge of that little creek 
down yonder. He was wounded in the shoulder 

— and he never did entirely git over it." 
Again he stopped dead short, and he lifted 

his hand and tugged at the lobe of his right 

:30} 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



ear absently. Simultaneously Mr. Felsburg, 
who was sitting close to a window beyond the 
jury box, was also seized with nervousness, 
for he jerked out a handkerchief and with it 
mopped his brow so vigorously that, to one 
standing outside, it might have seemed that 
the handkerchief was actually being waved 
about as a signal. 

Instantly then there broke upon the pause 
that still endured a sudden burst of music, 
a rolUcking, jinghng air. It was only a twenty- 
cent mouth organ, three sleigh bells, and a pair 
of the rib bones of a beef-cow being played all 
at once by a saddle-colored negro man but 
it sounded for all the world like a fife-and-drum 

corps : 

// you want to have a good time^ 

If you want to have a good time. 

If you want to have a good time. 

If you want to ketch the devil — 

Jine the cavalree ! 

To some who heard it now the tune was 
strange; these were the younger ones. But 
to those older men and those older women 
the first jubilant bars rolled back the years 
like a scroll. 

7/ you want to have a good time. 
If you want to have a good time. 
If you want to have a good time. 
If you want to ride with Bedford — 
Jine the cavalree ! 



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The sound swelled and rippled and rose 
through the windows — the marching song 
of the Southern trooper — Forrest's men, and 
Morgan's, and Jeb Stuart's and Joe Wheeler's. 
It had in it the jingle of saber chains, the creak 
of sweaty saddle-girths, the nimble clunk of 
hurrying hoofs. It had in it the clanging 
memories of a cause and a time that would 
live with these people as long as they lived 
and their children lived and their children's 
children. It had in it the one sure call to the 
emotions and the sentiments of these people^ 

And it rose and rose and then as the unseen 
minstrel went slouching down Main Street, 
toward the depot and the creek it sank lower 
and became a thin thread pf sound and then 
a broken thread of sound arid then it died out 
altogether and once more there was silence in 
the court house of Forked Deer County. 

Strangely enough not one listener had come 
to the windows to look out. The interruption 
from without had seemed part and parcel of 
what went on within. None faced to the 
rear, every one faced to the front. 

There was Mr. Lukins now. As Mr. Lukins 
got upon his fe^t he said to himself in a tone 
of feeling that he be dad-fetched. But im- 
mediately changing his mind he stated that he 
would preferably be dad-blamed, and as he 
moved toward the bar rail one overhearing 
him might have gathered from remarks let 
fall that Mr. Lukins was going some w We 

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WORDS AND MUSIC 



with the intention of being extensively dad- 
burned. But for all these threats !Mr. Lukins 
didn't go anywhere, except as near the railing 
as he could press. 

Nearly everybody else was standing up 
too. The state's attorney was on his feet 
with the rest, seemingly for the purpose of 
making some protest. 

Had any one looked they might have seen 
that the ember in the smoldering eye of the 
old foreman had blazed up to a brown fire; 
that Juror No. 4, with utter disregard for 
expense, was biting segments out of the brim 
of his new brown -varnished straw hat; that 
No. 7 had dropped his crutches on the floor, 
and that no one, not even their owner, had 
heard them fall; that all the jurors were half 
out of their chairs. But no one saw these 
things, for at this moment there rose up Aunt 
Tilly Haslett, a dominant figure, her huge wide 
back blocking the view of three or four im- 
mediately behind her. 

Uncle Fayette laid a timid detaining hand 
upon her and seemed to be saying something 
protestingly. 

"Turn loose of me. Fate Haslett!" she 
commanded. "Ain't you ashamed of your- 
se'f, to be tryin' to hold me back when you 
know how my only dear brother died a-f ollowin' 
after Gineral Nathan Bedford Forrest. Turn 
loose of me!" 

She flirted her great arm and Uncle Fayette 

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spun flutteringly into the mass behind. The 
sheriff barred her way at the gate of the bar. 

"Mizz Haslett," he implored, "please, Mizz 
Haslett — you must keep order in the cote." 

Aunt Tilly halted in her onward move, 
head up high and elbows out, and through 
her specs, blazing like burning-glasses, she 
fixed on him a look that instantly charred that 
unhappy official into a burning red ruin of his 
own self-importance. 

"Keep it yourse'f. High Sheriff Washing- 
ton Nash, Esquire," she bade him; "that's 
whut you git paid good money for doin'. 
And git out of my way! I'm a-goin' in there 
to that pore little lonesome thing settin' there 
all by herself, and there ain't nobody goin' 
to hinder me neither!" 

The sheriff shrunk aside; perhaps it would 
be better to say he evaporated aside. And 
public opinion, reorganized and made over 
but still incarnate in Aunt Tilly Haslett, swept 
past the rail and settled Hke a billowing black 
cloud into a chair that the local attorney for 
the defense vacated just in time to save himself 
the inconvenience of having it snatched bodily 
from under him. 

"There, honey," said Aunt Tilly crooningly 
as she gathered the forlorn Kttle figure of the 
prisoner's wife in her arms like a child and 
mothered her up to her ample bombazined 
bosom, "tliere now, honey, you jest cry on 
me." 



[34] 



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Then Aunt Tilly looked up and her specs 
were all blurry and wet. But she waved her 
palmleaf fan as though it had been the baton 
of a marshal. 

"Now, Jedge," she said, addressing the 
bench, "and you other gentlemen — you kin 
go ahead now." 

The state's attorney had meant evidently 
to make some sort of an objection, for he was 
upon his feet through all this scene. But he 
looked back before he spoke and what he sa\M 
kept him from speaking. I believe I stated 
earUer that he was a candidate for reelection. 
So he settled back down in his chair and 
stretched out his legs and buried his chin in the 
top of his hmp white waistcoat in an attitude 
that he had once seen in a picture entitled, 
** Napoleon Bonaparte at St. Helena." 

"You may resume, Judge Priest," said the 
trial judge in a voice that was not entirely 
free from huskiness, although its owner had 
been clearing it steadily for some moments. 

"Thank you kindly, suh, but I was about 
through anyhow," answered the v/itness with 
a bow, and for all his homeliness there was 
dignity and stateliness in it. "I merely wanted 
to say for the sake of completin' the record, 
so to speak, that on the occasion referred to 
them Yankees did not cross that bridge." 

With the air of tendering and receiving con- 
gratulations Mr. Lukins turned to his nearest 
neighbor and shook hands with him warmly. 

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The witness got up somewhat stiffly, once 
more becoming a commonplace old man in a 
wrinkled black alpaca coat, and made his 
way back to his vacant place, now in the shadow 
of Aunt Tilly Haslett's form. As he passed 
along the front of the jury-box the foreman's 
crippled right hand came up in a sort of a 
clumsy salute, and the juror at the other end 
of the rear row — No. 12, the oldest juror — 
leaned forward as if to speak to him, but 
remembered in time where his present duty 
lay. The old judge kept on until he came to 
Durham's side, and he whispered to him: 

"Son, they've quit lookin' at him and they're 
all a-lookin' at her. Son, rest your case." 

Durham came out of a maze. 

"Your Honor," he said as he rose, "the 
defense rests." 

• ••••• •• 

The jury were out only six minutes. Mr. 
Lukins insisted that it was only five minutes 
and a half, and added that he'd be dad-rotted 
if it was a second longer than that. 

As the lately accused Tandy came out of 
the courthouse with his imported lawyer — 
Aunt Tilly bringing up the rear with his tremb- 
ling, weeping, happy little wife — friendly 
hands were outstretched to clasp his and a 
whiskered old gentleman with a thumbnail 
like a Brazil nut grabbed at his arm. 

"Whichaway did Billy Priest go?" he 
demanded — "Uttle old Fightin' Billy — whar 

[36] 



WORDS AND MUSIC 



did he go to? Soon as he started in talkin' I 
placed him. Whar is he?" 

Walking side by side, Tandy and Durham 
came down the steps into the soft June night, 
and Tandy took a long, deep breath into his 
lungs. 

"Mr. Durham," he said, "I owe a great 
deal to you." 

"How's that?" said Durham. 

Just ahead of them, centered in a shaft of 
light from the window of the barroom of the 
Drummers' Home Hotel, stood Judge Priest. 
The old judge had been drmking. The pink 
of his face was a trifle more pronounced, the 
high whine in his voice a trifle weedier, as he 
counted one by one certain pieces of silver into 
the wide-open palm of a saddle-colored negro. 

"How's that?" said Durham. 

"I say I owe everything in the world to 
you," repeated Tandy. 

"No," said Durham, "what you owe me 
is the fee you agreed to pay me for defend- 
ing you. There's the man you're looking for.'* 

And he pointed to the old judge. 



1371 



II 

THE COUNTY TROT 



SATURDAY was the last day of the 
county fair and the day of the County 
Trot. It was also Veterans' Day, when 
the old soldiers were the guests of honor 
of the management, and likewise Ladies' Day, 
which meant that all white females of what- 
ever age were admitted free. So naturally, 
in view of all these things, the biggest day of 
fair week was Saturday. 

The fair grounds lay in a hickory flat a mile 
out of town, and the tall scaly barks grew so 
close to the fence that they poked their limbs 
over its top and shed down nuts upon the track. 
The fence had been whitewashed once, back 
in the days of its youth when Hector was a 
pup; but Hec was an old dog now and the rains 
of years had washed the fence to a misty gray, 
so that in the dusk the long, warped panels 
stood up in rows, palely luminous — like the 
highshouldered ghosts of a fence. And the 
rust had run down from the eaten-out nail- 
holes until each plank had two staring marks 



THE COUNTY TROT 



in its face — like rheumy, bleared eyes. The 
ancient grandstand was of wood too, and had 
laiD outdoors in all weathers until its rheumatic 
rafters groaned and creaked when the wind 
blew. 

Back of the grandstand stood Floral Hall 
and Agricultural Hall. Except for their names 
and their flagstaffs you might have taken them 
for two rather hastily built and long-neglected 
barns. Up the track to the north were the 
rows of stables that were empty, odorous little 
cubicles for fifty-one weeks of the year, but 
now — for this one week — alive with darky 
stable hands and horses; and all the good 
savors of woodfires, clean hay, and turned-up 
turf were commingled there. 

The fair had ideal weather for its windup. 
No frost had fallen yet, but in the air there 
were signs and portents of its coming. The 
long yellow leaves of the hickories had begun 
to curl up as if to hold the dying warmth of the 
sap to the last; and once in a while an ash 
flamed red like a signal fire to give warning for 
Indian summer, when all the woods would 
blaze in warpaints before huddhng down for 
the winter under their tufted, ragged tawnies 
and browns — like buffalo robes on the shoulders 
of chilled warriors. The first flights of the 
wild geese were going over, ^ their V's pointed 
to the Gulf; and that huckstering little bird 
of the dead treetops, which the negroes call 
the sweet-potato bird — maybe it's a pewee, 

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with an acquired Southern accent — was caUing 
his mythical wares at the front door of every 
woodpecker's hole. The woods were perfumy 
with ripening wild grapes and pawpaws, and 
from the orchards came rich winy smells where 
the windfalls lay in heaps and cider mills gushed 
imder the trees; and on the roof of the smoke- 
house the pared, sliced fruit was drying out 
yellow and leathery in the sun and looking — 
a little way off — Kke countless ears all turned 
to listen for the same thing. 

Saturday, by sunup, the fair grounds were 
astir. Undershirted concessionaries and privi- 
lege people emerged from their canvas sleeping 
quarters to sniff at a tantahzing smell that 
floated across to them from certain narrow 
trenches dug in the ground. That smell, just 
by itself, was one square meal and an incentive 
to another; for these trenches were full of live 
red hickory coals; and above them, on green- 
wood stakes that were stretched across, a shoat 
and a whole sheep, and a rosarj^ of young 
squirrels impaled in a string, had been all night 
barbecuing. Uncle Isom WooKolk was in 
charge here — mightily and solely in charge — 
Uncle Isom WooKolk, no less, official purveyor 
to the whole county at fish fries or camp break- 
fasts, secretary of the Republican County 
Committee, high in his church and his lodges 
and the best barbecue cook in seven states. 
He bellowed frequent and contradictory orders 
to twc* negro women of his household who were 

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arranging clean white clothes on board trestles; 
and constantly he went from shoat to sheep 
and from sheep to squirrels, basting them with 
a rag wrapped about a stick and dipped into a 
potent sauce of his own private making. Red 
pepper and sweet vinegar were two of its main 
constituents, though, and in turn he painted 
each carcass as daintily as an artist retouching 
the miniature of his lady fair, so that under 
his hand the crackling meatskins sizzled and 
smoked, and a yellowish glaze like a veneer 
spread over their surfaces. His white chin- 
beard waggled with importance and the artistic 
temperament. 

Before Uncle Isom had his barbecue off the 
fire the crowds were pouring in, coming from 
the town afoot, and in buggies and hacks, and 
from the country in farm wagons that held 
families, from grandsire to baby in arms, all 
riding in kitchen chairs, with bedquilt lap 
robes. At noon a thin trickle of martial music 
came down the pike; and pretty soon then the 
veterans, forty or fifty of them, marched in, 
two by two, some in their reunion gray and 
some in their best Sunday blacks. At the 
head of the Hmping line of old men was a fife- 
and-drum corps — two sons of veterans at 
the drums and Corporal Harrison Treese, 
sometime bugler of Terry's Cavalry, mth his 
fife half buried in his whiskers, ripping the high 
notes out of The Girl I Left Behind Me. Near 
the tail of the procession was Sergeant Jimmy 

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Bagby, late of King's Hellhounds. Back in war 
times that organization had borne a more 
official and a less sanguinary title; but you 
would never have guessed this, overhearing 
Sergeant Jimmy Bagby 's conversation. 

The sergeant wore a little skirtless jacket, 
absurdly high-collared, faded to all colors and 
falHng to pieces with age. Three tarnished 
buttons and a rag of rotted braid still clung to 
its front. Probably it had fitted the sergeant 
well in the days when he was a sHm and limber 
young partisan ranger; but now the peaked 
little tail showed halfway up his back where 
his suspenders forked, and his white-shirted 
paunch jutted out in front like a big cotton 
pod bursting out of a gray-brown boll. The 
sergeant wore his jacket on all occasions of 
high military and civic state — that, and a 
gangrened leather cartridge-box bouncing up 
and down on his plump hip — and over his 
shoulder the musket he had carried to war and 
back home again, an ancient Springfield with 
a stock Hke a log butt and a hammer like a 
mule's ear, its barrel merely a streak of rust. 

He walked side by side with his closest 
personal friend and bitterest political foe. 
Major Ashcroft, late of the Ninth Mchigan 
Volunteers — walking so close to him that 
the button of the Loyal Legion in the major's 
left-hand lapel almost touched the bronze 
Southern Cross pinned high up on the right 
breast of the sergeant's flaring jacket. 

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From time to time the sergeant, addressing 
the comrades ahead of him, would poke the 
major in the side and call out: 

"Boys, I've took the first prisoner — this 
here pizen Yank is my meat!'* 

And the imperturbable major would in- 
variably retort: 

"Yes, and along about dark the prisoner will 
have to be loading you into a hack and sending 
you home — the same as he always does." 

Thereupon a cackling laugh would run up 
the double line from its foot to its head. 

The local band, up in its coop on the warped 
gray roof of the grandstand, blared out Dixie, 
and the crowd cheered louder than ever as the 
uneven column of old soldiers swung stiffly 
down the walkway fronting the grandstand 
and halted at the word — and then, at another 
word, disbanded and melted away into individ- 
uals and groups. Soon the veterans, with their 
womenfolks, were scattered all over the grounds, 
elbowing a way through the narrow aisles of 
Floral Hall to see the oil paintings and the 
prize cakes and preserves, and the different 
patterns of home-made rag quilts — Hen-and- 
Chickens and Lone Star and Log Cabin — or 
crowding about the showpens where young 
calves lowed vainly for parental attention and 
a Berkshire boar, so long of body and so vast 
of bulk that he only needed to shed his legs to 
be a captive balloon, was shoving his snout 
through a crack in his pen and begging for 

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goodies. And in Agricultural Hall were water- 
melons like green boulders, and stalks of corn 
fourteen feet long, and saffron blades of prize- 
winning tobacco, and families of chickens lui- 
happily domiciled in wooden coops. The bray 
of sideshow barkers, and the squeak of toy 
balloons, and the barnyard sounds from the 
tied-up, penned-up farm creatures, went up to 
the treetops in a medley that drove the birds 
scurrying over the fence and into the quieter 
woods. And in every handy spot under a tree 
basket dinners were spread, and family groups 
ate cold fried chicken and lemon meringue pie, 
picnic fashion, upon the grass. 

In the middle of this a cracked bugle sounded 
and there was a rush to the grandstand. Almost 
instantly its rattling gray boards clamored 
under the heels of a multitude. About the 
stall of the one lone boolanaker a small crowd, 
made up altogether of men, eddied and swirled. 
There were men in that group, strict church 
members, who would not touch a playing card 
or a fiddle — playthings of the devil by the 
word of their strict orthodoxy; who wouldn't 
let their children dance any dance except a 
square dance or go to any parties except play 
parties, and some of them had never seen the 
inside of a theater or a circus tent. But they 
came each year to the county fair; and if they 
bet on the horses it was their own private 
affair. 

So, at the blare of that leaky bugle. Floral 

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Hall and the cattlepens were on the moment 
deserted and lonely. The Berkshire boar re* 
turned to his wallow, and a young Jersey 
bullock, with a v/arm red coat and a temper of 
the same shade, was left shaking his head and 
snorting angrily as he tried vainly to dislodge 
a blue ribbon that was knotted about one of 
his short, curving black horns. Had he been 
a second prizewmner instead of a first, that 
ribbon would have been a red ribbon and there 
is no telling what might have happened. 

The first race was a haK-mile dash for run- 
ning horses. There were four horses entered 
for it and three of the four jockeys wore regular 
jockey outfits, with loose blouses and top boots 
and long-peaked caps; but the fourth jockey 
w^as an imp-black stable boy, wearing a cotton 
shirt and the ruins of an old pair of pants. The 
brimless wreck of a straw hat was clamped 
down tight on his wool like a cup. He be- 
straddled a sweaty little red gelding named 
FHtterfoot, and Fhtterfoot was the only local 
entry, and was an added starter, and a forlorn 
hope in the betting. 

While these four running horses were dancing 
a fretful schottische round at the haK-mile 
post, and the starter, old man Thad Jacobson, 
was bellowing at the riders and slashing a black- 
snake whip round the shins of their impatient 
mounts, a slim black figure wormed a way mider 
the arms and past the short ribs of a few belated 
betters yet lingering about the bookmaker's 

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block. This intruder handled himself so deftly 
and so nimbly as not to jostle by one hair's 
breadth the dignity of any white gentleman 
there present, yet was steadily making progress 
all the while and in ample time getting down a 
certain sum of money on Fhtterfoot to win at 
odds. 

"Ain't that your nigger boy Jeff.?" inquired 
Doctor Lake of Judge Priest, as the new comer, 
still boring deftly, emerged from the group and, 
with a last muttered "Sense me, boss — please, 
suh — scuse me!" darted away toward the 
head of the stretch, where others of his race 
were draping themselves over the top rail of 
the fence in black festoons. 

"Yes, I suppose 'tis — probably," said Judge 
Priest in that high singsong of his. "That 
black scoundrel of mine is liable to be every- 
where — except when you want him, and then 
he's not anywhere. That must be Jeff, I 
reckin." And the old judge chuckled indul- 
gently in appreciation of Jeff's manifold talents. 

During the parade of the veterans that day 
Judge Priest, as commandant of the camp, 
had led the march just behind the fife and 
drums and just ahead of the color-bearer 
carrying the silken flag; and all the way out 
from town Jeff, his manservant, valet, and 
guardian, had marched a pace to his right. 
Jeff's own private and personal convictions — 
convictions which no white man would ever 
know by word of mouth from Jeff anyhow-^ 

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were not with the late cause which those elderly 
men in gray represented. Jeff's political feel- 
ings, if any such he had, would be sure to lean 
away from them; but it was a chance to march 
with music — and Jeff had marched, his head 
up and his feet cutting scallops and double- 
shuffles in the dust. 

Judge Priest's Jeff was a small, jet-black 
person, swift in his gait and wise in his genera- 
tion. He kept his wool cropped close and made 
the part in it with a razor. By some subtle 
art of his own he could fall heir to somebody 
else's old clothes and, wearing them, make 
them look newer and better than when they 
were new. Overcome by the specious wiles 
of Jeff some white gentleman of his acquaintance 
would bestow upon him a garment that seemed 
shabby to the point of open shame and a public 
scandal. Jeff would retire for a season with a 
pressing iron and a bottle of cleansing fluid, 
and presently that garment would come forth, 
having undergone a glorious resurrection. See- 
ing it, then, the former proprietor would repent 
his generosity and wonder what ever possessed 
him to part with apparel so splendid. 

For this special and gala occasion Jim wore 
a blue-serge coat that had been given to him 
in consideration of certain acts of office-tending 
by Attorney Clay Saunders. _^ Attorney Clay 
Saunders weighed two hundred and fifty pounds 
if he weighed an ounce, and Jeff would never 
see one hundred and twenty-five; but the blu« 

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serge was draped upon Jeff's frame with just 
the fashionable looseness. The sleeves, though 
a trifle long, hung most beautifully. Jeff's 
trousers were of a light and pearly gray, and 
had been the property originally of Mr. Otter- 
buck, cashier at the bank, who was built long 
and rangy; whereas Jeff was distinctly short 
and ducklike. Yet these same trousers, pressed 
now until you could have peeled peaches with 
their creases and turned up at the bottoms to a 
rakish and sporty length, looked as if they might 
have been specially coopered to Jeff's legs by a 
skilled tailor. 

This was Judge Priest's Jeff, whose feet would 
fit anybody's shoes and whose head would fit 
anybody's hat. Having got his money safely 
down on Flitter foot to win, Jeff was presently 
choking a post far up the homestretch. With 
a final crack of the starter's coiHng blacksnake 
and a mounting scroll of dust, the runners were 
off on their half-mile dash. While the horses 
were still spattering through the dust on the 
far side of the course from him Jeff began 
encouraging his choice by speech. 

" Come on, you httle red hoss ! " he said in a 
low, confidential tone. "I asks you lak a 
gen'leman to come on and win all that money 
fur me. Come on, you little red hoss — you 
ain't half runnin'! Little red hoss" — his 
voice sank to a note of passionate pleading — 
*'whut is detainin' you.^^" 
. Perhaps even that many years back, when 

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it had just been discovered, there was some- 
thing to this new theory of thought transference. 
As if Jeff's tense whispers were reaching to him 
across two hundred yards of track and open 
.field Fhtterfoot opened up a gap between his 
(lathered flanks and the rest of them. The 
others, in a confused group, scrambled and 
lunged out with their hoofs; but Flitterfoot 
turned into a long red elastic rubber band, 
stretching himself out to twice his honest length 
and then snapping back again to half. High 
up on his shoulder the ragged black stable boy 
hung, with his knees under his chin and his 
shoulders hunched as though squaring off to 
do a little flying himseff. Twenty long yards 
ahead of the nearest contender, Fhtterfoot 
scooted over the Kne a winner. Once across, 
he expeditiously bucked the crouching small 
incumbrance off his withers and, with the bridle 
dangling, bounced riderless back to his stable; 
while above the roar from the grandstand rose 
the triumphant remark of Jeff: "Ain't he a 
regular runnin' and a-jumpin' fool!" 

The really important business of the day to 
most, however, centered about the harness 
events, which was only natural, this being an 
end of the state where they raised the stand- 
ard breds as distinguished from the section 
whence came the thoroughbreds. A running 
race might do for an appetizer, like a toddy 
before dianer; but the big iuterest would focus 
in the two-twenty pace and the free-for-all 

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consolation, and finally would culminate in tht 
County Trot — open only to horses bred and 
owned in the county and carrying with it a 
purse of two thousand dollars — big money 
for that country — and a dented and tarnished 
silver trophy that was nearly fifty years old, 
and valued accordingly. 

After the half-mile dash and before the first 
heat of the two-twenty pace there was a balloon 
ascension and parachute drop. Judge Priest's 
Jeff was everywhere that things were happen- 
ing. He did two men's part in holding the 
bulging bag down to earth until the spangled 
aeronaut yelled out for everybody to let go. 
Wlien the man dropped, away over by the 
back fence, Jeff was first on the spot to brush 
him off and to inquire in a voice of respectful 
solicitude how he was feelmg, now that he'd 
come down. Up in the grandstand, Mrs. 
Major Joe Sam Covington, who was stout and 
wore a cameo breastpin as big as a coffee saucer 
at her throat, expressed to nobody in particular 
a desire for a glass of cool water; and almost 
instantly, it seemed. Judge Priest's Jeff was 
at her side bowing low and ceremoniously with 
a brimming dipper in one hand and an itch 
for the coming tip in the other. When the 
veterans adjourned back behind Floral Hall 
for a watermelon cutting, Jeff, grinning and 
obsequious, arrived at exactly the properly 
timed moment to receive a whole butt-end 
of red-hearted, green-rinded lusciousness for 

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his own. Taking the opportunity of a crowded 
minute about Uncle Isom Woolf oik's barbecued 
meat stand he bought extensively, and paid 
for what he bought with a lead half dollar that 
he had been saving for months against just 
such a golden chance — a haK dollar so pal- 
pably leaden that Uncle Isom, discovering it 
half an hour later, was thrown mto a state of 
intense rage, followed by a period of settled 
melancholy, coupled with general suspicion of 
all mankind. Most especially, though. Judge 
Priest's Jeff concerned himself with the running 
of the County Trot, being minded to turn his 
earlier winnings over and over again. 

From the outset Jeff, like most of the fair 
crowd, had favored Van Wallace's black mare, 
Minnie May, against the only other entry for 
the race, Jackson Berry's big roan trotting 
stallion, Blandville Boy. The judgment of the 
multitude stood up, too, for the first two heats 
of the County Trot, alternating in between 
heats of the two-twenty pace and the free-for- 
all, were won handily by the smooth-gaited 
mare. Blandville Boy was feeling his oats 
and his grooming, and he broke badly each time, 
kOT all the hobble harness of leather that was 
^fouckled over and under him. Nearly every- 
body was now betting on Minnie May to take 
the third and the decisive heat. 

Waiting for it, the crowd spiead over the 
grounds, leaving wide patches (?f the grand- 
stand empty. The sideshows and the medicine 



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venders enjoyed heavy patronage, and once more 
the stalled ox and the fatted pig were surrounded 
by admu-ing groups. There was a thick jam 
about the crowning artistic gem of Floral Hall 
— a crazy quilt with eight thousand different 
pieces of silk in it, mainly of acutely jarring 
shades, so that the whole was a thing calcu- 
lated to blind the eye and benumb the mind. 

The city marshal forcibly calmed down certain 
exhilarated young bucks from the country — 
they would be sure to fire off their pistols and 
yell into every dooryard as they tore home that 
night, careening in their dusty buggies; but 
now they were made to restrain themselves. 
Bananas and cocoanuts advanced steadily in 
price as the visible supply shrank. There is a 
type of Southern countryman who, coming to 
town for a circus day or a fair, first eats exten- 
sively of bananas — red bananas preferred; 
and then, when the raw edge of his hunger is 
abated, he buys a cocoanut and, after punching 
out one of its eyes and drinking the sweet milky 
whey, cracks the shell apart and gorges on the 
white meat. By now the grass was cumbered 
with many shattered cocoanut shells, like 
broken shards; and banana peels, both red 
and yellow, lay wilted and limp everywhere in 
the litter underfoot. 

The steam Fly in' Jinny — it would be a 
carousel farther North — ground unendingly, 
loaded to its gunwales with family groups. 
Crap games started in remote spots and fights 

162] 



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broke out. In a far shadow of the fence behind 
the stables one darky with brass knuckles felled 
another, then broke and ran. He scuttled 
over the fence like a fox squirrel, with a bullet 
from a constable's big blue-barreled revolver 
spatting into the paling six inches below him as 
he scaled the top and lit flying on the other side. 
Sergeant Jimmy Bagby, dragging his Spring- 
field by the barrel, began a long story touching 
on what he once heard General Buckner say 
to General Breckinridge, went to sleep in the 
middle of it, enjoyed a refreshing nap of twenty 
minutes, woke up with a start and resumed 
the anecdote at the exact point where he left 
off — "An' 'en General Breckinridge he says 

to General Buckner, he says, 'General '" 

But Judge Priest's Jeff disentangled himself 
from the center of things, and took a quiet 
walk up toward the stables to see what might 
be seen and to hear what might be heard, as 
befitting one who was speculating heavily and 
needed all available information to guide him. 
What he saw was Van Wallace, owner of the 
mare, and Jackson Berry, owner of the stud- 
horse, slipping furtively into an empty feed- 
shed. As they vanished within Van Wallace 
looked about him cautiously, but Jeff had 
already dived to shelter alongside the shed 
and was squatting on a pile of stable scrapings, 
where a swarm of flies flickered above an empty 
pint flask and watermelon rinds were curling 
up and drying in the sun like old shoesoles. Jeff 

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had seen something. Now he appHed his ear 
to a crack between the planks of the feedshed 
and heard something. 

For two minutes the supposed rivals con- 
fabbed busily in the shelter of a broken hay- 
rack. Then, suddenly taking alarm without 
cause, they both poked their heads out at the 
door and looked about them searchingly — 
light and left. There wasn't time for Jeff 
to get away. He only had a second's or two 
seconds' warning; but all the conspirators 
saw as they issued forth from the scene of their 
intrigue was a small darky in clothes much 
too large for him lying alongside the shed in a 
sprawled huddle, with one loose sleeve over his 
face and one black forefinger shoved like a 
snake's head down the neck of a flat pocket- 
flask. Above this figure the flies were buzzing 
in a greedy cloud. 

"Just some nigger full of gin that fell doviTi 
there to sleep it off," said Van Wallace. And 
he would have gone on; but Berry, who was 
a tail red-faced, horsy man — a blusterer on 
the surface and a born coward inside — booted 
the sleeper in the ribs with his toe. 

"Here, boy!" he commanded. 'Wake up 
here!" And he nudged him again hard. 

The negro only flinched from the kicks, then 
rolled farther over on his side and mumbled 
through a snore. 

"Couldn't hear it thunder," said Berry 
reassured. "Well, let's get away from here." 

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"You bet!" said Van Wallace fervently. 
**No use takin' chances by bein' caught talkin' 
together. Anyhow, they'll be ringing the 
startin' bell in a minute or two." 

"Don't forget, now!" counseled Berry as 
Wallace started off, making by a roundabout 
and devious way for his own stable, where 
Minnie May, hitched to her sulky and with her 
legs bandaged, was being walked back and forth 
by a stable boy. 

"Don't you worry; I won't!" said Wallace; 
and Berry grinned joyously and vanished in the 
opposite direction, behind the handy feedshed. 

On the instant that both of them disappeared 
Judge Priest's Jeff rose to his feet, magically 
changing from a drunken darky to an alert 
and flying black Mercury. His feet hardly 
hit the high places as he streaked it for the 
grandstand — looking for Judge Priest as hard 
as he could look. 

Nearly there he ran into Captain Buck 
Owings. Captain Buck Owings was a quiet, 
grayish man, who from time to time in the 
course of a busy Hfe as a steamboat pilot and 
master had had occasion to shoot at or into 
divers persons. Captain Buck Owings had a 
magnificent capacity for attending strictly 
to his own business and not allowing anybody 
else to attend to it. He was commonly classi- 
fied as dangerous when irritated — and tolerably 
easy to irritate. 

"Cap'n Buck! Cap'n Buck!" sputtered 

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Jeff, SO excited that he stuttered. "P-please, 
suh, is you seen my boss — Jedge Priest? I 
suttinly must see him right away. This here 
next heat is goin' to be thro wed." 

It was rarely that Captain Buck Owdngs 
raised his voice above a low, deliberate drawL 
He raised it a trifle now. 

"What's that, boy.? " he demanded. " Wlio's 
goin' to throw this race?" 

He caught up with Jeff and hurried along by 
him, Jeff explaining what he knew in half a 
dozen panted sentences. As Captain Buck 
Owings' mind took in the situation. Captain 
Buck Owings' gray eyes began to flicker a little. 

Nowhere in sight was there any one w^ho 
looked like the judge. Indeed, there were few 
persons at all to be seen on the scarred green 
turf across which they sped and those few were 
hurrying to join the crowds that packed thick 
upon the seats of the grandstand, and thicker 
along the infield fence and the homestretch. 
Somewhere beyond, the stable bell jangled. 
The little betting ring was empty almost and 
the lone bookmaker was turning his blackboard 
down. 

His customary luck served Jeff in this crisis, 
however. From beneath a cuddy under the 
grandstand that bore a blue board lettered 
with the word "Refreshments" appeared the 
large, slow-moving form of the old judge. He 
was wiping his mouth with an enormous hand- 
kerchief as he headed dehberately for the infield 

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fence. His venerable and benevolent pink 
face shone afar and Jeff literally flung himself 
at him. 

" Oh, Jedge ! " he yelled. " Oh, Jedge; please, 
suh, wait jes' a minute!" 

In some respects Judge Priest might be said 
to resemble Kipling's East Indian elephant. 
He was large as to bulk and conservative as to 
his bodily movements; he never seemed to 
hurry, and yet when he set out to arrive at a 
given place in a given time he would be there 
in due season. He faced about and propelled 
himself toward the queerly matched pair 
approaching him with such haste. 

As they met, Captain Buck Owings began to 
speak and his voice was back again at its level 
monotone, except that it had a little steaming 
sound in it, as though Captain Buck Owings 
were beginning to seethe and simmer gently 
somewhere down inside of himself. 

"Judge Priest, suh," said Captain Buck, 
*'it looks Hke there'd be some tall swindUn' 
done round here soon unless we can stop it, 
This boy of yours heard something. Jeff 
tell the judge what you heard just now." An/ 
Jeff told, the words bubbling out of him in ^i 
stream : 

"It's done all fixed up betwixt them w'ite 
gen'lemen. That there Mr. Jackson Berry 
he's been tormentin' the stallion ontwell he 
break and lose the fust two heats. Now, w'en 
the money is all on the mare, they goin' to 

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turn round and do it the other way. Over 
on the backstretch that Mr. Van Wallace he's 
goin' to spite and tease Minnie May ontwell 
she go all to pieces, so the stallion '11 be jest 
natchelly bound to win; an' 'en they'll split 
up the money amongst 'em!" 

"Ah-hah!" said Judge Priest; "the infernal 
scoundrels!" Even in this emergency his 
manner of speaking was almost deliberate; but 
he glanced toward the bookmaker's block and 
made as if to go toward it. 

"That there Yankee bookmaker gen'leman 
he's into it too," added Jeff. "I p'intedly 
heared 'em both mention his name." 

"I might speak a few words in a kind of a 
warnin' way to those two," purred Captain 
Buck Owings. "I've got a right smart money 
adventured on this trottin' race myself." 
And he turned toward the track. 

"Too late for that either, son," said the old 
judge, pointing. "Look yonder!" 

A joyful rumble was beginning to thunder 
from the grandstand. The constables had 
cleared the track, and from up beyond came 
the gHnt of the flashing sullvy-spokes as the 
two conspirators wheeled about to score down 
and be off. 

"Then I think maybe I'll have to attend to 
'em personally after the race," said Captain 
Buck Ov/ings in a resigned tone. 

"Son," counseled Judge Priest, "I'd hate 
mightily to see you brought up for trial before 

[58] 



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me for shootin' a rascal — especially after the 
mischief was done. I'd hate that mightily — 
I would so." 

"But, Judge," protested Captain Buck Ow- 
ings, "I may have to do it! It oughter be done. 
Nearly everybody here has bet on Minnie May. 
It's plain robbin' and stealin'!" 

*' That's so," assented the judge as Jeff danced 
a clog of excitement just behind him — "that's 
so. It's bad enough for those two to be robbin' 
their own fellow-citizens; but it's mainly the 
shame on our county fair I'm thinkin' of." 
The old judge had been a director and a stock- 
holder of the County Jockey Club for twenty 
years or more. Until now its record had been 
clean. "Tryin' to declare the result off after- 
ward wouldn't do much good. It would be 



"The word of three white men against a 
nigger — and nobody would beheve the nigger," 
added Captain Buck Owings, finishing the 
sentence for him. 

"And the scandal would remain jest the 
same," bemoaned the old judge. "Buck, my 
son, unless we could do something before the 
race it looks like it's hopeless. Ah!" 

The roar from the grandstand above their 
heads deepened, then broke up into babblings 
and exclamations. The two trotters had swung 
past the mark, but Minnie May had slipped a 
length ahead at the tape and the judges had 
sent them back again. There would be a 

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minute or two more of grace anyhow. The 
eyes of all three followed the nodding heads of 
the horses back up the stretch. Then Judge 
Priest, still watching, reached out for Jeff and 
dragged him round in front of him, dangling 
in his grip like a hooked black eel. 

"Jeff, don't I see a gate up yonder in the 
track fence right at the first turn?" he asked. 

"Yas, suh," said Jeff eagerly. "'Tain't 
locked neither. I come through it myse'f 
today. It opens on to a little road whut leads 
out past the stables to the big pike. I kin — " 

The old judge dropped his wriggling servitor 
and had Captain Buck Owings by the shoulder 
with one hand and was pointing with the other 
up the track, and was speaking, explaining 
something or other in a voice unusually brisk 
for him. 

"See yonder, son!" he was saying. "The 
big oak on the inside — and the gate is jest 
across from it!" 

Comprehension lit up the steamboat cap- 
tain's face, but the light went out as he slapped 
his hand back to his hip pocket — and slapped 
it flat. 

"I knew I'd forgot something!" he lamented, 
despairingly. "Needin' one worse than I ever 
did in my whole life — and then I leave mine 
home in my other pants!" 

He shot the judge a look. The judge shook 
his head. 

"Son," he said, "the circuit judge of the 

[60] 



THE COUNTY TROT 



first judicial district of Kintucky don't tote 
such things." 

Captain Buck Owings raised a clenched fist 
to the blue sky above and swore impotently. 
For the third time the grandstand crowd was 
starting its roar. Judge Priest's head began 
to waggle with little sidewise motions. 

Sergeant Jimmy Bagby, late of King's Hell- 
hounds, rambled with weaving indirectness 
round the corner of the grandstand not twenty 
feet from them. His gangi*ened cartridge- 
box was trying to climb up over his left shoulder 
from behind, his eyes were heavy with a warm 
and comforting drowsiness, and his Spring- 
field's iron butt-plate was scurfing up the dust 
a yard behind him as he hauled the musket 
along by the muzzle. 

The judge saw him first; but, even as he 
spoke and pointed, Captain Buck Owings 
caught the meaning and jumped. There was 
a swirl of arms and legs as they struck, and 
Sergeant Jimmy Bagby, sorely shocked, stag- 
gered back against the w^all with a loud grunt 
of surprise and indignation. 

HaK a second later, side by side. Captain 
Buck Ovangs and Judge Priest's Jeff sped north- 
ward across the earth, and Sergeant Jimmy 
Bagby staggered toward the only comforter near 
at hand, with his two empty arms upraised. 
Filled with a great and sudden sense of loss he 
fell upon Judge Priest's neck, ahnost bearing 
his commander down by the weight of his grief. 

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"Carried her four years!" he exclaimed 
piteously; "four endurin' years, Judge, and 
not a single dam' Yankee ever laid his hand on 
her! Carried her ever since, and nobody ever 
dared to touch her! And now to lose her this- 
away ! 

His voice, which had risen to a bleat, sank 
to a sob and he wept unrestrainedly on the 
old judge's shoulder. It looked as though 
these two old men were wresthng together, 
catch-as-catch-can. 

The judge tried to shake his distressed friend 
off, but the sergeant clung fast. Over the 
bent shoulders of the other the judge saw the 
wheels flash by, going south, horses and drivers 
evened up. The "Go!" of the starting judge 
was instantly caught up by five hundred 
spectators and swallowed in a crackling yell. 
Oblivious of all these things the sergeant raised 
his sorrowing head and a melancholy satis- 
faction shone through his tears. 

"I lost her," he said; "but, by gum. Judge, 
it took all four of 'em to git her away from me, 
didn't it?" 

None, perhaps, in all that crowd except old 
Judge Priest saw the two fleeting figures speed- 
ing north. All other eyes there were turned 
to the south, where the county's rival trotters 
swung round the first turn, traveling together 
like teammates. None marked Captain Buck 
Owings as, strangely cumbered, he scuttled 
across the track from the outer side to the inner 

[621 



THE COUNTY TROT 



and dived like a rabbit under the fence at the 
head of tke homestretch, where a big oak tree 
with a three-foot bole cast its lengthening 
shadows across the course. None marked 
Judge Priest's Jeff coiling down like a black- 
snake behind an unlatched wooden gate almost 
opposite where the tree stood. 

None marked these things, because at this 
moment something direful happened. Minnie 
May, the favorite, was breaking badly on the 
back length. Almost up on her hindlegs she 
lunged out ahead of her with her forefeet, like 
a boxer. That far away it looked to the grand- 
stand crowds as though Van Wallace had lost 
his head entirely. One instant he was savagely 
lashing the mare along the flanks, the next he 
was pulling her until he was stretched out flat 
on his back, with his head back between the 
painted sulky wheels. And Bland ville Boy, 
steady as a clock, was drawing ahead and 
making a long gap between them. 

Blandville Boy came on grandly — far ahead 
at the half; still farther ahead nearing the 
three-quarters. All need for breaking her gait 
being now over, crafty Van Wallace had 
steadied the mare and again she trotted per- 
fectly — trotted fast too ; but the mischief 
was done and she was hopelessly out of it, 
being sure to be beaten and lucky if she saved 
being distanced. 

The whole thing had worked beautifully, 
without a hitch. This thought was singing 

163] 



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high in Jackson Berry's mind as he steered 
the stud-horse past the three-quarter post 
and saw just beyond the last turn the straight- 
away of the homestretch, opening up empty 
and white ahead of him. And then, seventy- 
five yards away, he beheld a most horrifying 
apparition ! 

Against a big oak at the inner-track fence, 
sheltered from the view of all behind, but in 
full sight of the turn, stood Captain Buck 
Owings, drawing down on him with a huge 
and hideous firearm. How was Jackson Berry, 
thus rudely jarred from pleasing prospects, to 
know that Sergeant Jimmy Bagby's old Spring- 
field musket hadn't been fired since Appomat- 
tox — that its lock was a solid mass of corroded 
metal, its stock worm-eaten walnut and its 
barrel choked up thick with forty years of rust! 
All Jackson Berry knew was that the fearsome 
muzzle of an awful weapon was follomng him 
as he moved down toward it and that behind 
the tall mule's ear of a hammer and the brass 
guard of the trigger he saw the cold, forbidding 
gray of Captain Buck Owings' face and the 
colder, more forbidding, even grayer eye of 
Captain Buck Owings — a man known to be 
dangerous when irritated — and tolerably easy 
to irritate! 

Before that menacing aim and posture 
Jackson Berry's flesh turned to wine jelly 
and quivered on his bones. His eyes bulged 
out on his cheeks and his cheeks went white to 

[64] 



THE COUNTY TROT 



match his eyes. Had it not been for the 
stallion's stern between them, his knees would 
have knocked together. Livoluntarily he drew 
back on the reins, hauhng in desperately until 
Bland\dlle Boy*s jaws were pulled apart hke 
the red pamted mouth of a hobby-horse and his 
forelegs sawed the air. The horse was fighting 
to keep on to the nearing finish, but the man 
could feel the slugs of lead in his flinchmg 
body. 

And then — and then — fifty scant feet 
ahead of him and a scanter twenty above 
where the armed madman stood — a wide 
gate flew open; and, as this gap of salvation 
broke into the fine of the encompassing fence, 
the welcome clarion of Judge Priest's Jeff rose 
in a shriek: "This way out, boss — this way 
out!" 

It was a time for quick thinking; and to 
persons as totally, wholly scared as Jackson 
Berry was, thinking comes wondrous easy. 
One despairing half-glance he threw upon 
the goal just ahead of him and the other half 
on that unwavering rifle-muzzle, now looming 
so close that he could catch the glint of its 
sights. Throwing himself far back in his reeling 
sulky Jackson Berry gave a desperate yank on 
the lines that lifted the sorely pestered stallion 
clear out of his stride, then sawed on the right- 
hand rein until he swung the horse's head 
through the opening, grazing one wheel against a 
gatepost — and was gone past the whooping Jeff, 

[65] 



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lickety-split, down the dirt road, through the 
dust and out on the big road toward town. 

Jeff slammed the gate shut and vanished 
instantly. Captain Buck Owuigs dropped his 
weapon into the long, rank grass and slid round 
the treetrunk. And half a minute later Van 
Wallace, all discomfited and puzzled, with all 
his fine hopes dished and dashed, sorely against 
his own will jogged IVIinnie May a winner past 
a grandstand that recovered from its dumb 
astonishment in ample time to rise and yell its 
approval of the result. 

Judge Priest being a childless widower of 
many years' standing, his household was 
administered for him by Jeff as general manager, 
and by Aunt Dilsey Turner as kitchen goddess. 
Between them the old judge fared well and they 
fared better. Aunt Dilsey was a master hand 
at a cookstove; but she went home at night, 
no matter what the state of the weather, wear- 
ing one of those long, wide capes — dolmans, 
I think they used to call them — that hung 
clear down to the knees, hiding the wearer's 
hands and whatsoever the hands might be 
carrying. 

It was a fad of Aunt Dilsey's to bring one 
covered splint basket and one close-mouthed 
tin bucket with her when she came to work in 
the morning, and to take both of them away 
with her — under her dolman cape — at night; 
and in her cabin on Plunkett's Hill she had « 

[66]' 



THE COUNTY TROT 



large family of her own and two paying boarders, 
all of whom had the appearance of being well 
nom'ished. If you, reader, are Southern-bcm, 
these seemingly trivial details may convej' a 
meaning to your understanding. 

So Aunt Dilsey Turner looked after the 
judge's wants from the big old kitchen that 
was detached from the rest of the rambling 
white house, and Jeff had the run of his side- 
board, his tobacco caddy, and his w^ardrobe. 
The judge was kept comfortable and they were 
kept happy, each respecting the other's property 
rights. 

It was nine o'clock in the evening of the last 
day of the county fair. The judge, mellowly 
comfortable in his shirtsleeves, reclined in a big 
easy rocking-chair in his sitting room. There 
was a small fire of hickory wood in the fireplace 
and the Kttle flames bickered together and the 
embers popped as they charred a dimmer red. 
The old judge was smoking his homemade 
corncob pipe ^dth the long cane stem, and 
sending smoke wreaths aloft to shred away 
like cobweb skeins against the dingy ceiling. 

"Jeff!" he called to a black shadow fidgeting 
about in the background. 

"Yas, suh, Jedge; right yere!" 

"Jeff, if your discernin' taste in handmade 
sour-mash whisky has pern\itted any of that 
last batch of liquor I bought to remain in the 
demijohn, I wish you'd mix me up a little 
toddy." 

[en 



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Jeff snickered and mixed the toddy, mix- 
ing it more hurriedly then common, because 
he was anxious to be gone. It was Saturday 
night — a night dedicated by long usage to his 
people; and in Jeff's pocket was more ready 
money than his pocket had ever held before 
at any one time. Moreover, in the interval 
between dusk and dark, Jeff's wardrobe had 
been most grandly garnished. Above Mr. Clay 
Saunders' former blue serge coat a crimson 
necktie burned like a beacon, and below the 
creased legs of Mr. Otterbuck's late pearl-gray 
trousers now appeared a pair of new patent- 
leather shoes wdth pointed toes turned up at the 
ends like sleigh-runners and cloth uppers in the 
effective colors of the Douglas plaid and rows 
of 24-point white pearl buttons. 

Assuredly" Jeff was anxious to be on his way. 
He placed the filled toddy glass at the old 
judge's elbow and sought unostentatiously to 
withdraw himself. 

"Jeff!" said the judge. 

"Yas, suh." 

"I beheve Mr. Jackson Berry did not see fit 
to return to the fair grounds this evenin' and 
protest the result of the third heat.^" 

"No, suh," said Jeff; "frum whut I beared 
some of the w'ite folks sayin', he driv right 
straight home and went to bed and had a sort 
of a chill." 

"Ah-hah!" said the judge, sipping reflec- 
tively. Jeff fidgeted and drew nearer a half- 

[68] 



THE COUNTY TROT 



open window, listening out into the maple-lined 
street. Two blocks down the street he could 
hear the colored brass band playing in front of 
the Colored Odd Fellows Hail for a "festibuL" 
"Jeff," said Judge Priest musingly, "violence 
or a show of violence is always to be deplored." 
Jeff had only a hazy idea of what the old 
judge meant by that, but in all his professional 
life Jeff* had never intentionally disagreed in 
conversation with any white adult — let alone 
a generous employer. So : 

"Yas, suh," assented Jeff promptly; "it 
suttinly is." 

"But there are times and places," went on 
the old judge, "when it is necessary." 

"Yas, suh," said Jeff, catching the drift — 
"lak at a racetrack!" 

"Ah-hah! Quite so," said Judge Priest, 
noddmg. "And, Jeff, did it ever occur to you 
that there are better ways of killin' a cat than 
by chokin' him with butter.^" 

"Indeed yas, suh," said Jeff. "Sometimes 
you kin do it best with one of these yere ole 
rusty Confedrit guns!" 

At that precise moment, in a little house 
on the next street, Sergeant Jimmy Bagby's 
family, having prevailed upon him to remove 
his shoes and his cartridge-belt before retiring, 
were severally engaged in an attempt to dis- 
suade him from a firmly expressed purpose^ of 
taking his Springfield musket to bed with him. 

[69]' 



Ill 

FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS 
REWARD 




"E had a feud once down in our 
country, not one of those sangui- 
nary feuds of the mountains in- 
volving a whole district and forcing 
constant enlargements of hillside burying 
grounds, nor yet a feud handed down as a deadly 
legacy from one generation to another until 
its origin is forgotten and its legatees only 
know how they hate without knowing why, 
but a shabby, small neighborhood vendetta 
affecting but two families only, and those in a 
far corner of the county — the Flemings and 
the Faxons. 

Nevertheless, this feud, such as it was, per- 
sisted in a sluggish intermittent kind of a way 
for twenty years or so. It started in a dispute 
over a line boundary away back in War Times 
when a Faxon shot a Fleming and was in turn 
shot by another Fleming; and it lasted until 
the Faxons tired of fence-corner, briar-patch 

[70] 



FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 



warfare and moved down into Tennessee, all 
but one branch of them, who came into town 
and settled there, leaving the Flemings domi- 
nant in the Gum Spring precinct. So the feud 
ceased to be an institution after that and became 
a memory, living only in certain smouldering 
animosities which manifested themselves at 
local elections and the like, until it flared up 
momentarily in the taking-off of old Ranee 
Fleming at the hands of young Jim Faxon; 
and then it died, and died for good. 

It is the manner of the taking-off of this one 
of the Flemings that makes material for the 
story I am telling here. By all accounts it 
would appear that the Faxons had been rather 
a weak-spined race who fought mostly on the 
defensive and were lacking in that mahgnant 
persistency that made old Ranee Fleming's 
name one to scare bad children with in the un- 
settled days following the Surrender. I re- 
member hov/ we boys used to watch him, 
half-fearsomely and half-admiringly, when he 
came to town on a Court Monday or on a 
Saturday and swaggered about, unkempt and 
mud-crusted and frequently half drunk. Late 
in the afternoon he would mount unsteadily 
to the tilted seat of his spring wagon and go 
back home to the Gum Spring country lashing 
at his team until they danced v/ith terror and 
spHtting the big road wide open through the 
middle. And that night at the places where 
the older men congregated there would be tales 

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to tell of those troubled mid-sixties when old 
Ranee had worn the turn-coat of a guerilla, 
preying first on one side and then on the other. 
Now young Jim Faxon, last male survivor 
of his clan, and direct in the Kne of the original 
fighting Faxons, was a different sort of person 
altogether, a quiet, undersized, decent-spoken 
young chap who minded well his own business, 
which was keeping a truck stand on the Market. 
He lived with his aunt, old Miss Puss Whitley 
— certain women were still called IMiss in our 
town even though they had been married for 
twenty years and widowed for as many more, 
as was the case in this instance — and he was 
her main support and stand-by. It was com- 
mon rumor that when young Jim came of age 
and had a little money laid by on his own 
account, he meant to marry the little Hardin 
girl — Emmy Hardin — and this w^as a romance 
that nearly everybody in town knew about and 
favored most heartily. She was his distant 
cousin and an orphan, and she lived with Miss 
Puss too. Sometimes in good weather she 
would come in with him and help out at the 
truck stand. She was a Httle quail-Kke crea- 
ture, quick in her movements and shy as a 
bunny, with pretty irregular features and a 
skin so clear and white that when she blushed, 
which was a hundred times a day, the color 
would drench her face to the temples and make 
her prettier than ever. All of Jim's regular 
customers approved his choice of a sweetheart 

172] 



FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 



and wished him mighty well. He was regarded 
as about the pick of the thinned-out Faxon 
breed. 

For the years that young Jim was growing 
up, his tribal enemy left him alone. Perhaps 
old Ranee regarded the lank sapHng of a boy 
as being not worth even the attention of an 
insult. Probably in crowds they had rubbed 
elbows a dozen times with no engendering of 
friction. But when young Jim had passed his 
twentieth birthday and was almost a man 
grown, then all without warning Ranee Fleming 
set to work, with malice aforethought, to pick 
a quarrel with him. It was as deliberate and 
as brutal as anything could be. Of a sudden, 
it seemed, the torrents of long-submerged hate 
came spuming up from some deep back eddy 
in his muddied, fuddled old mind, making an 
evil whirlpool of passion. 

It was on a Saturday afternoon in November 
that old Ranee came, boiling with his venom, 
to spew it out on the son of his dead and gone 
enem_y. It happened on the market, and if 
old Ranee aimed to add brim measure to the 
humihation of the boy, not in a year of choosing 
could he have picked fitter time and place. 
The green grocer wasn't known then; every- 
body went to market in person on week day 
mornings and particularly everybody went of 
a Saturday afternoon. Li the market square, 
town aristocrat and town commoner met on 
the same footing, a market basket over every 

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arm, with this distinction only : — that ordinary 
folk toted their loaded baskets back home and 
the well-to-do paid to have theirs sent. There 
were at least twenty darkies who picked up a 
living by packing market baskets home. They 
all had their regidar patrons and regarded them 
with jealous, proprietary eyes. You took a 
customer away from a basket darky and you 
had him to fight. 

There is a new market house now on the site 
of the old one, a pretentious affair of brick w^ith 
concrete floors and screened window openings 
and provision for steam heat in the winter; 
but then, and for many years before that, the 
market was a decrepit shed-like thing, closed 
in the middle and open at the ends, with a 
shingled roof that sagged in on itself and had 
hollows in it like the sunken jaws of a toothless 
old hag; and there were cracks in the side 
walls that you could throw a dog through, 
almost. In the middle, under liaK-way shelter, 
were the stalls of the butchers, which w^ere 
handed down from father to son so that one 
stall would remain in a family for generations; 
and here one bought the beef steaks of the 
period — long bib-shaped segments of pale 
red meat, cut miraculously long and marvel- 
ously thin, almost like apron patterns. This 
thinness facilitated the beating process — the 
cooks would iDound them with tools devised 
for that purpose — and then they were fried 
through and through and drenched with a 

[74] 



FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 

thick flour gravy. Such was the accustomed 
way of treating a beef steak. Persons with 
good teeth could eat them so, and for the others 
the brovvn flour gravy provided a sustenance. 
But the spring chickens were marvels for 
plumpness and freshness and cheapness; and 
in the early spring the smoked hog jowls hung 
in rows, fairly begging people to carry them off 
and boil them with salad greens; and in the 
fall when the hog killing season was at hand, 
the country sausage and the chines and back- 
bones and spare ribs made racks of richness 
upon the worn marble slabs. 

Up at the far end of the square beyond the 
shed eaves stood the public scales, and around 
it hay growers and cord wood choppers and 
Old Man Brimm, the official charcoal burner 
of the county, waited for trade alongside their 
highpiled wagons. Next to them was the 
appointed place of the fish hucksters, which 
was an odorous place, where channel cats and 
river perch and lake crappies were piled on the 
benches, some still alive and feebly flapping. 
The darkies were sure to be thickest here. 
There was an unsung but none the less authen- 
tic affinity existing between a fresh-caught 
catfish and an old negro man. 

Down at the other end was the domain of 
the gardeners and the truck; patch people — 
an unwritten law as old as the market itself 
ordained these apportionments of space — 
and here you might find in their seasons all 



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manner of edibles, wild and tame. The country 
boys and girls ranged the woods and the fields 
for sellable things, to go along with the product 
of orchard and garden and berry patch. In 
the spring, when herb teas and home-brewed 
tonics were needed for the thinning of the blood, 
there would be yellow-red sassafras root tied 
up in fragrant, pungent bunches, all ready for 
steeping; and strings of fresh-shot robins for 
pot-pies were displayed side by side with clumps 
of turnip-greens and m.ustard greens. And in 
summer there would be all manner of wild 
berries and heaps of the sickish-smelling May 
apples; and later, after the first light frost, 
ripe pawpaws and baskets of wild fox grapes, 
like blue shoe buttons; and then later on, scaly- 
bark hickory nuts and fresh-brewed persimmon 
beer in kegs, and piggins and crocks of the real 
lye hominy, with the big blue grains of the 
corn all asmoke like slaking lime, and birds — 
which meant quail always — and rabbits, 
stretched out stark and stiff, and the native 
red-sldnned yams, and often possums, alive 
and "sulhng" in small wooden cages, or else 
dead and dressed, with the dark kidney-fat 
coating their immodestly exposed interiors. 

As I was saying, it was on a Saturday in 
November and getting along toward Thanks- 
giving when old Ranee Fleming came to the 
market to shame young Jim Faxon before the 
crowd. And when he came, you could tell by 
his look and by the way he shouldered through 

[76] 



FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 

the press of people between the double rows 
of stands that all the soured animosities of his 
nature had swelled to bursting under the yeasty 
ferment of an unstable, hair -triggered temper. 
The liquor he had drunk might have had some- 
thing to do with it too. He came up with a 
barely perceptible lurch in his gait and stopped 
at the Faxon stall, which was the third from 
the lower end of the shed. With his head down 
between his shoulders and his legs spraddled 
he began staring into the face of young Jim. 
Deadly offense can be carried just as well in a 
look as in the spoken word, if you only know 
how to do it — and Ranee Fleming knew. 
There was outright obscenity in his glower. 

Instantly it seemed, everybody in that 
whole end of the market square sensed what 
was impending. Sellers and buyers ceased 
trafficking and faced all the same way. Those 
in the rear were standing on tiptoe the better 
to see over the heads of those nearer to these 
two blood enemies. Some climbed upon the 
wheel hubs of the wagons that were backed up "> 

in rows alongside the open shed and balanced 
themselves there. The silence grew electric 
and tiligled with the feehng of a coming clash. 

Young Jim wanted no trouble, that was plain 
enough to be seen. The first darting realiza- 
tion that his tribal foe had^ forced a meeting 
on him seemed to leave him dazed, and at a 
loss for the proper course to follow. He bent 
his face away from the blasphemous insistent 

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glare of the old man and made a poor pretense 
at straightening up his wares upon the bench 
in front of him; but his hands trembled so he 
overturned a little wooden measure that held 
a nickel's worth of dried lady-peas. The little 
round peas rolled along a sunken place in the 
wood and began spattering off in a steady 
stream, like buck-shot spilling from a canister. 
A dark red flush came up the back of the boy's 
neck. He was only twenty, anyhow, and those 
who looked on were sorry for him and for his 
youth and helplessness and glad that little 
Emmy Hardin, his sweetheart, wasn't there. 

It was a long half minute that old Ranee, 
without speaking, stood there, soaking his soul 
in the sight of a Faxon's discomfiture, and when 
he spoke he grated the words as though he had 
grit in his mouth. 

"Looky here you," he ordered, and the boy, 
as though forced to obey by a will stronger than 
his own, lifted his head and looked at him. 

"Mister Fleming," he answered, "what — 
what is it you want with me — Mister Fleming? " 

"Mister Fleming — Mister Fleming," 
mimicked the older man, catching at his 
words, "Mister Fleming, huh? Well, you 
know mighty good and well, I reckin, whut it 
is I want with you. I want to see if you're 
as white-livered as the rest of your low-flung, 
hound-dawg, chicken-hearted breed used to be. 
And I reckin you are. 

"Mister Fleming, huh? Well, from now on 

[78] 



FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 

that's whut it better be and don't you fail to 
call me by them entitlements either. The 
next time I come by I reckin you better take 
off your hat to me too. Do you hear me, 
plain, whut I'm a-sayin' ? You " 

He called him the unforgivable, unatonable 
name — the fighting word, than which, by the 
standards of that community and those people, 
no blow with a clenched fist could be in one 
twentieth part so grievous an injury; yes, it 
was worse than a hundred blows of a fist. So 
at that, the onlookers gave back a Httle, making 
way for the expected rush and grapple. But 
there was no forward rush by the younger man, 
no grapple with the older. 

Young Jim Faxon took it — he just stood 
and took it without a word or a step. Old 
Ranee looked at him and laughed out his con- 
tempt in a derisive chuckle and then he turned 
and slouched off, without looking back, as 
though he disdained to watch for a rear attack 
from so puny and spineless an enemy. It all 
started and happened and was over with in a 
minute or less. The last of the spilt lady 
peas were still spattering down upon the rough 
bricks of the market and running away and 
hiding themselves in cracks. Young Jim, 
his head on his breast and his shamed eyes 
looking down at nothing, was fumbling again 
with his w^ares and Ranee Fleming's hunching 
shoulders were vanishing at the end of the 
shed. 

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People talked about it that night and for 
days after. It was not a thing to forget — a 
man near g^o\^^Q who lacked the sand to resent 
that insult. A fist fight might have been for- 
gotten, even a fist fight between these two 
heritors of a feud instinct, but not this. Some 
of the younger fellows didn't see, they said, 
how Jim Faxon could hold his head up again 
and look people in the eye. And Jim didn't 
hold his head up — not as high as he had held 
it before this happened. Broody-eyed and 
glum and tight-lipped, he tended Miss Puss 
Whitley's truck patch and brought his products 
to market every morning. He had always been 
quiet and sparing of speech; now he was quiet 
to the point almost of dumbness. 

A month and more went by, and old Ranee 
didn't ride in from Gum Spring, and then the 
Christmas came. Christmas Day fell on a 
Monday so that the Christmas itself properly 
started on the Saturday before. It was a warm 
and a green Christmas as most of them are in 
that climate, mild enough at midday for folks 
to sit on their front porches and just cold 
enough at night to beard the grass with a 
silver-gray frost rime. Languid looking house 
flies crawled out in the afternoons and cleaned 
their gummy wings while they sunned them- 
selves on the southern sides of stables. The 
Christmas feeling was in the air. At the 
wharfboat lay the Clyde, deep laden for her 
annual jug-trip, vnih thousands of bottles and 

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FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 

jugs and demi-johns consigned to the dry 
towns up the river. There was a big side- 
walk trade going on in fire crackers and rockets, 
the Christmas and not the Fourth being the 
time for squibbing of crackers in the Souths 
The market, though, was the busiest place of 
all. It fau'ly milled with people. Every hucks- 
ter needed four hands, and still he wouldn't 
have had enough. 

Jimmy Faxon had little Emmy Hardin help- 
ing him through the hours when the pressure 
was greatest and the customers came fastest. 
She kept close to him, with little nestling 
motions, and yet there was something protect- 
ing in her attitude, as though she would stand 
between him and any danger, or any criticism. 
The looks she darted at him were fairly caress- 
ing. Through the jam appeared Ranee Flem- 
ing, elbowing liis way roughly. His face above 
his straggly whiskers was red with temper and 
with liquor. His cotton shirt was open at the 
throat so that his hairy chest showed. His 
shapeless gray jeans trousers — gray originally 
but now faded and stained to a mud color — 
were both beltless and suspenderless, and were 
girthed tightly about his middle by the strap 
at the back. From much ramming of his 
hands into the pockets, they were now crowded 
down far upon his hips, shomng an unwontedly 
long expanse of shirt; and this gave to him an 
abnormally short-legged, long-waisted look. 

A lot of those little fuzzy parasitic pods 

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called beggar-lice were stuck thick upon his 
bagged knees — so thick they formed irregular 
patterns in grayish green. He wore no coat 
nor waistcoat, but an old mud-stiffened over-* 
coat was swung over his shoulders with the 
arms tied loosely around his neck and the skirts 
dangling in folds behind him; and cuckleburrs 
clung to a tear in the Hning. He was a fit 
model of unclean and unwholesome ferocity. 

Before young Jim or Httle Emmy Hardin 
saw him, he was right up on them; only the 
width of the bench separated him from them. 
He leaned across it and called Jim that name 
again and slapped him in the face with a wide- 
armed sweeping stroke of his open hand. The 
boy flinched back from the coming blow so 
that only the ends of old Ranee's flaihng fingers 
touched his cheek, but the intent was there. 
Before the eyes of his sweetheart, he had been 
slapped in the face. The girl gave a startled 
choking gasp and tried to put her arms about 
young Jim. He shook her off. 

Well content wdth his work, old Ranee fell 
back, all the time watching young Jim. People 
gave v/ay for him involuntarily. When he was 
•clear of the shed he turned and made for one 
of the saloons that lined the square on its 
western side. He had a choice of several such 
places; the whole row was given over to 
saloons, barring only a couple of cheap John 
clothing stores and a harness store, and two or 
three small dingy pawn shops. Pistol stores 

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FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 

these last were, in the vernacular of the darkies, 
being so called because the owners always kept 
revolvers and spring-back knives on display 
in the show wdndows, along with battered 
musical instruments and cheap watches. 

The spectators followed old Ranee's figure 
with their eyes until the swinging doors of the 
nearest bar room closed behind him. When 
they looked back again toward Stall No. 3 
young Jim was gone too. He had vanished 
silently; and Emmy Hardin was alone, with 
her face buried in her arms and her arms 
stretched across the counter, weeping as though 
she would never leave off. 

From the next stall there came to her, 
comfortingly, a middle aged market woman, a 
motherly figure in a gray shawl with puckered 
and broad red hands. She lifted Emmy up 
and led her away, calling out to her nearest 
neighbor to watch her stall and the Faxon stall 
until she got back. 

"There's Hable to be trouble," she added, 
spealdng in a side whisper so the sobbing girl 
wouldn't hear what she said. 

*'I recldn not," said the man. "It lOoks 
to me like Jimmy Faxon is plumb cowed 
down and 'feared of that there old bush 
whacker — it looks like he ain't got the spirit 
of a rabbit left in him. But you take her on 
away somewheres, IVIizz Futrell — me and my 
boys will 'tend stand for both of you, and you 
needn't worry." 

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Under such merciful guardianship little 
Emmy Hardin was taken away and so she 
was spared the sight of what was to follow. 

Old Ranee stayed in the nearest saloon 
about long enough to take one drink and then 
he came out and headed for the next saloon 
along the row. To reach it he must pass one 
of the pawn-brokers' shops. He had just 
passed it when a sort of smothered warning 
outcry went up from behind him somewhere, 
and he swung round to look his finish square 
in the face. 

Young Jim Faxon was stepping out of the 
pawn-broker's door. He was crying so the 
tears streamed down his face. His right arm 
was down at his side stiffly and the hand held 
clenched a weapon which the Daily Evening 
News subsequently described as "a Brown 
& Rogers thirty-eight cahbre, nickle plated, 
single-action, with a black rubber handle, and 
slightly rusted upon the barrel." ^ 

Old Ranee made no move toward his own 
hip pocket. It came out at the inquest that 
he was not carrying so much as a pen-knife» 
He half crouched and began stumbling back- 
ward toward the front of the building with 
his arms out and his hands maldng empty 
pawing clutches behind him as though he were 
reaching for some solid support to hold him 
up in his peril. But before he had gone three 
steps, young Jim brought the pistol up and 
fired — just once. 

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FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 



Once was enough. If you had never before 
this seen a man shot, you would have known 
instinctively that this one was mortally stricken. 
Some who were near and looking right at him 
told afterward how the loose end of one over- 
coat sleeve, dangling down on his breast, 
flipped up a httle at the shot. A slightly 
pained, querulous look came into his face and 
he brought his arms round and folded them 
tightly across his stomach as though taken with 
a sudden cramp. Then he walked, steadily 
enough, to the edge of the sidewalk and half- 
squatted as though he meant to sit on the 
curbing with his feet in the gutter. He was 
half way down when death took him in his 
vitals. He pitched forward and outward upon 
his face with his whiskers flattening in the 
street. Two men ran to him and turned him 
over on his back. His face had faded already 
from its angry red to a yellowish white, like 
old tallow. He breathed hard once or twice 
and some thought they saw his eyelids bat 
once; then his chest fell inward and stayed so, 
and he seemed to shrink up to less than his 
proper length and bulk. 

Young Jim stood still ten feet away looking 
at his handiwork. He had stopped crying and 
he had dropped the pistol and was wiping 
both hands flatly against the breast of his 
wool sweater as though to cleanse them of 
something. Allard Jones, the market-master, 
who had police powers and wore a blue coat 



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and a German silver star to prove it, came 
plowing through the ring of on-lookers, head 
tilt, and laid hands upon him. Allard Jones 
fumbled in his pocket and produced a pair of 
steel nippers and made as if to twine the chain 
round the boy's right wrist. 

"You don't need to be putting those things 
on me, Mr. Jones," said his prisoner. "I'll 
go all right — I'll go with you. It's all over 
now — everything's over!" 

Part of the crowd stayed behind, forming a 
scrooging, shoving ring around the spot in front 
of Benny Michelson's pawn shop where the 
body of old Ranee lay face upward across the 
gutter with the stiffening legs on the sidewalk, 
and the oddly foreshortened body out in the 
dust of the road; and the rest followed Allard 
Jones and young Jim as they walked side by 
side 'Up Market Square to Court Street and 
along Court Street a short block to the lock-up. 

The sympathy of the community was with 
young Jim — and the law of the land was dead 
against him on all counts. He had not fired 
in sudden heat and passion; there had been 
time, as the statutes measured time, for due 
deliberation. However great the provocation 
and by local standards the provocation had 
been great enough and pressing hard to the 
breaking point, he could not claim self-defense. 
Even though Fleming's purpose had been, 
ultimately, to bring things to a violent issue, 
he was retreating, actually, at the moment 

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FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 



itself. As a bar to punishment for homicide, 
the plea of temporary insanity had never yet 
been set up in our courts. Jim Faxon was 
fast in the snarls of the law. 

From the lock-up he went to the county jail, 
the charge, wilful and premeditated murder. 
Dr. Lake and Mr. Herman Felsburg and Major 
Covington, all customers of the accused, and 
all persons of property, stood ready to go bail 
for him in any sum namable, but murder was 
not bailable. In time a grand jury buttressed 
the warrant with an indictment — murder in 
the first degree, the indictment read — and 
young Jim stayed in jail awaiting his trial 
when circuit court should open in the spring. 

Nobody, of course, believed that his jury 
would vote the extreme penalty. The dead 
man's probable intentions and his past reputa- 
tion, taken with the prisoner's youth and good 
repute, would stand as bars to that, no matter 
how the letter of the law might read; but it 
was generally accepted that young Jim would 
be found guilty of manslaughter. He might 
get four years for killing old Ranee, or six 
years or even ten — this was a subject for 
frequent discussion. There was no way out 
of it. People were sorrier than ever for Jim 
and for his aunt and for the tacky, pretty little 
Hardin girl. 

All through the short changeable winter, 
with its alternate days of snow flurrying and 
sunshine, Emmy Hardin and Miss Puss Whitley, 

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a crushed forlorn pair, together minded the 
stall on the market, accepting gratefully the 
silent sympathy that some offered them, and 
the awkward words of good cheer from others. 
Miss Puss put a mortgage of five hundred 
dollars on her little place out in the edge of 
town. With the money she hired Dabney 
Prentiss, the most silvery tongued orator of 
all the silver tongues at the county bar, to 
defend her nephew. And every day, when 
market hours were over, in rain or snow or 
shine, the two women would drive in their 
truck wagon up to the county jail to sit with 
young Jim and to stay with him in his cell until 
dark. 

Spring came earlier than common that year. 
The robins came back from the Gulf in Febru- 
ary on the tail of a wet warm thaw. The 
fruit trees bloomed in March and by the 
beginning of April everything was a vivid 
green and all the trees were clumped with new 
leaves. Court opened on the first Monday. 

On the Sunday night before the first Mon- 
day, Judge Priest sat on his porch as the dusk 
came on, laving his spirits in the balm of the 
yoimg spring night. In the grass below the 
steps the bull-cricket that wintered under Judge 
Priest's front steps was tuning his fairy-fiddle 
at regular, haK-minute intervals. Bull bats 
on the quest for incautious gnats and midges 
were flickering overhead, showing white patches 

[88] 



FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 

on the under sides of their long wings. A 
flying squirrel, the only night-rider of the whole 
squirrel tribe, flipped out of his hole in a honey 
locust tree, and cocked his head high, and then 
he spread the furry gray membranes along his 
sides and sailed in a graceful, downward swoop 
to the butt of a silver leaf poplar, fifty feet 
away, where he clung against the smooth bark 
so closely and so flatly he looked like a httle 
pelt stretched and nailed up there to dry. 

The front gate chcked and creaked. The 
flying squirrel flipped around to the safe side 
of his tree and fled upward to the shelter of the 
branches, like a little gray shadow, and Judge 
Priest, looking down the aisle of shady trees, 
saw two women coming up the walk toward 
him, their feet crunching slowly on the gravel. 
He laid his pipe aside and pulled chairs forward 
for his callers, whoever they might be. They 
were right up to the steps before he made them 
out — Miss Puss Whitley and little Emmy 
Hardin. 

"Howdy do, ladies," said the old Judge with 
his homely courtesy. "Howdy, Miss Puss? 
Emmy, child, how are you? Come in and set 
down and rest yourselves." 

But for these two, this was no time for the 
small civilities. The weight of trouble at their 
hearts knocked for utterance^ at their lips. Or, 
at least, it was so with the old aunt. 

"Jedge Priest," she began, with a desperate, 
driven eagerness, "we've come here tonight 

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to speak in private with you about my boy — 
about Jimmy." 

In the darkness they could not see that the 
old Judge's plump figure was stiffening. 

"Did Mister Dabney Prentiss — did any- 
one, send you here to see me on this business?'* 
he asked, quickly. 

"No, suh, nobody a'tall," answered the old 
woman. "We jest came on our own accord — 
we felt like as if we jest had to come and see 
you. Court opens in the mornin' and Jimmy's 
case, as you know, comes up the first thing. 
And oh, Jedge Priest, we air in so much trouble, 
Emmy and me — and you've got the name of 
bein' kind hearted to them that's borne down 
and in distress — and so we come to you." 

He raised his hand, as though to break in on 
her, but the old woman was not to be stopped. 
She was pouring out the grievous burden of 
her lament: 

"Jedge Priest, you knowed my husband 
when he was alive, and you've knowed me 
these many years. And you know how it was 
in them old days that's gone that the Flemings 
was forever and a day fightin' with my people 
and forcin' trouble on 'em 'till finally they 
hunted 'em plum' out of the county and out 
of the State, away from the places where they 
was born and raised. And you know Jimmy 
too, and know what a hard time he had growin' 
up, and how he's always stood by me and 
helped me out, jest the same as if he was my 

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own son. And I reckin you know about him — 
and Emmy here." 

She broke off to wipe her eyes. Had it been 
a man who came on such an errand the Judge 
would have sent him packing — he would 
have been at no loss to put his exact meaning 
into exact language; for the Judge held his 
place on the bench in a high and scriptural 
regard. But here, in the presence of these 
two woeful figures, their faces drenched and 
steeped with sorrow, he hesitated, trying to 
choose words that would not bruise their 
wounds. 

"Miss Puss," he said very softly, almost as 
though he were speaking to a child, "whatever 
my private feelin's may be towards you and 
yours, it is not proper for me as the Judge 
upon the bench, to express them in advance 
of the trial. It is my sworn duty to enforce 
the law, as it is written and laid down in the 
books. And the law is merciful, and is just 
to all." 

The old woman's angular, slatty figure 
straightened. In the falling light her pinched 
and withered face showed, a white patch with 
deep grayish creases in it, the color of snow in a 
quick thaw. 

"The law!" she flared out, "the law, yoi. 
say, Jedge. Well, you kin talk mighty big 
about the law, but what kind of a law is that 
that lets a fightin', swearin', drunken bully 
like Ranee Fleming plague a poor boy and caD 

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him out of his name with vile words and shame 
him before this child here, and yit not do nothin* 
to him for it? And what kind of a law is it 
that'll send my boy up yonder to that there 
penitentiary and wreck his life and Emmy's 
life and leave me here alone in my old age, 
ashamed to lift my head amongst my neighbors 
ever again?" 

** Madame," said the Judge with all kindli- 
ness in his tone, "it's not for me to discuss 
these matters with you, now. It's not even 
proper that I should let you say these things 
to me." 

**0h, but Jedge," she said, "you must listen 
to me, please. You oughter iaiow the truth 
and there ain't no way for you to know it 
without I tell it to you. Jimmy didn't want 
no quarrel with that man — it wasn't never 
none of his choosin'. He tried not to bear no 
grudge for what had gone before — he jest 
craved to be let alone and not be pestered. 
Why, when Ranee Fleming cussed him that 
first time, last Fall, he come home to me cryin' 
like his heart would break. He said he'd been 
insulted and that he'd have to take it up and 
fight it out with Ranee Fleming; he felt like 
he just had to. But we begged him on our 
bended knees mighty nigh, me and Emmy did, 
not to do nothin' for our sakes — and for our 
sakes he promised to let it go, and say nothin'. 
Even after that, if Ranee Fleming had just 
let him be, all this turrible trouble wouldn't 

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a-come on us. But Ranee Fleming he come 
back again and slapped Jimmy's face, and 
Jimmy knowed then that sooner or later he'd 
have to kill Ranee Fleming or be killed his- 
self — there wasn't no other way out of it for 
him. 

"Jedge Priest, he's been the best prop a 
lone woman ever had to lean on — he's been 
like a son to me. My own son couldn't a-been 
more faithful or more lovin'. I jest ask you 
to bear all these things in mind tomorrow." 

"I will, Madame," said the old Judge, rather 
huskily, "I promise you I will. Your nephew 
shall have a fair trial and all his rights shall be 
safe-guarded. But that is all I can say to you 
now." 

Emmy Hardin, who hadn't spoken at all, 
plucked her by the arm and sought to lead 
her away. Shaking her head, the old woman 
turned away from the steps. 

"Jest one minute, please. Miss Puss," said 
Judge Priest, "I'd like to ask you a question, 
and I don't want you to think I'm pryin' into 
your private and personal affairs; but is it 
true what I hear — that you've mortgaged your 
home place to raise the money for this boy's 
defense?" 

"I ain't begredgin' the money," she pro- 
tested. "It ain't the thought of that, that 
brought me here tonight. I'd work my fingers 
to the bone if 'twould help Jimmy any, and so 
would Emmy here. We'd both of us be willin' 

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and ready to go to the porehouse and live and 
die there if it v/oiild do him any good." 

"I feel sure of that," repeated the old Judge 
patiently, "but is it true about this mortgage?" 

"Yes, suh," she answered, and then she 
began to cry again, "it's true, but please don't 
even let Jimmy know. He thinks I had the 
money saved up from the marketin' to hire 
Mr. Prentiss with, and I don't never want 
him to know the truth. No matter how his 
case goes I don't never want him to know." 

They had moved off down the gravel walk 
perhaps twenty feet, when suddenly the smoul- 
dering feud-hate stirred in the old woman's 
blood ; and it spread through her and made her 
meager frame quiver as if with an ague. And 
now the words came from her with a hiss of 
feeling: 

"Jedge Priest, that plague-taken scoundrel 
deserved killin'! He was black hearted from 
the day he came into the world and black 
hearted he went out of it. You don't remem- 
ber, maybe — you was off soldierin* at the 
time — when he was jayhawkin' back and 
forth along the State line here, burnin' folks' 
houses down over their heads and mistreatin' the 
wimmin and children of them that was away in 
the army. I tell you, durin' that last year be- 
fore you all got back home, there was soldiers 
out after him — out with guns in their hands and 
orders to shoot him down on sight, like a sheep- 
killin' dog. He didn't have no right to live!" 

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FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 



The girl got her quieted somehow; she was 
sobbing brokenly as they went away. For a 
long five minutes after the gate clicked behind 
the forlorn pair, Judge Priest stood on his 
porch in the attitude of one who had been 
pulled up short by the stirring of a memory of 
a long forgotten thing. After a bit he reached 
for his hat and closed the front door. He 
waddled heavily down the steps and disap- 
peared in the aisle of the maples and silver leaf 
trees. 

Half an hour later, clear over on the other 
side of town, two windows of the old court 
house flashed up as rectangles of light, set 
into a block of opaque blackness. Passers by 
idling homeward under the shade trees of the 
Square, wondered why the hghts should be 
burning in the Judge's chambers. Had any 
one of them been moved to investigate the 
whys and wherefores of this phenomenon he 
would have discovered the Judge at his desk, 
with his steel bowed spectacles balanced pre- 
cariously on the tip of his pudgy nose and his 
round old face pulled into a pucker of intense- 
ness as he dug through one sheaf after another 
of musty, snuffy-smelling documents. The 
broad top of the desk in front of him was piled 
with windrows of these ancient papers, that 
were gray along their creases, with the pigeon- 
hole dust of years, and seamy and buffed with 
age. Set in the wall behind him was a vault 
and the door of the vault was open, and within 

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was a gap of emptiness on an upper shelf, which 
showed where all these papers had come from; 
and for further proof that they were matters 
of court record there was a Utter of many 
crumbly manila envelopes bearing inscriptions 
of faded ink, scattered about over the desk top, 
and on the floor where they had fallen. 

For a good long time the old Judge rummaged 
briskly, pawing into the heaps in front of him 
and snorting briskly as the dust rose and tickled 
his nostrils. Eventually he restored most of 
the papers to their proper wrappers and replaced 
them in the vault, and then he began consulting 
divers books out of his law library — ponderous 
volumes, bound in faded calf skin with splotches 
of brown, like liver spots, on their covers. It 
was nearly midnight before he finished. He 
got up creakily, and reaching on tiptoe — an 
exertion which created a distinct hiatus of 
inches between the bottom of his wrinkled vest 
and the waistband of his trousers — he turned 
out the gas jets. Instantly the old courthouse, 
sitting among the trees, became a solid black 
mass. He felt his way out into the hallway, 
barking his shins on a chair, and grunting softly 
to himself. 

• •••••• 

When young Jim Faxon's case was called 
the next morning and the jailor brought him 
in, Jim wore hand-cuffs. At the term of court 
before this, a negro cow thief had got away 
coming across the court house yard and the 

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FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 

Judge had issued orders to the jailor to use 
all due precautions in future. So the jailor, 
showing no favoritism, had seen fit to handcuff 
young Jim. Moreover, he forgot to bring 
along the key to the irons and while he was 
hurrying back to the jail to find it, young Jim 
had to wait between his women folk, with his 
bonds still fast upon him. Emmy Hardin 
bent forward and put her small hands over the 
steel, as though to hide the shameful sight of 
it from the eyes of the crowd and she kept her 
hands there until Jailor Watts came back and 
freed Jim. The little group of three sitting in 
a row inside the rail, just back of Lawyer 
Dabney Prentiss' erect and frock-coated back, 
were all silent and all pale-faced, young Jim 
with the pallor of the jail and Emmy Hardin 
with the whiteness of her grief and her terror, 
but the old aunt's face was a streaky, grayish 
white, and the wrinkles in her face and in her 
thin, corded neck looked inches deep. 

Right away the case was called and both 
sides — defense and commonwealth — an- 
nounced as ready to proceed to trial. The 
aucfience squared forward to watch the picking 
of the jurors, but there were never to be any ju- 
rors picked for the trial of this particular case. 

For Judge Priest had reached the point 
where he couldn't hold in any longer. He 
cleared his throat and then he spoke, using 
the careful EngHsh he always used on the 
bench — and never anywhere else. 

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"Before we proceed," he began, and his 
tone told plainly enough that what he meant 
to say now would be well worth the hearing, 
"before we proceed, the court has something 
to say, which will have a direct bearing upon 
the present issue." He glanced about him 
silently, commanding quiet. "The defendant 
at the bar stands charged with the death of 
one Ransom Fleming and he is produced here 
to answer that charge." 

From the desk he lifted a time-yellowed, 
legal-looking paper, folded flat; he shucked 
it open with his thumb. "It appears, from the 
records, that in the month of February and 
of the year 1865, the said Ransom Fleming, 
now deceased, was a fugitive from justice, 
going at large and charged with divers and 
sundry felonious acts, to wit, the crime of 
arson and the crime of felonious assault with 
intent to kill, and the crime of confederating 
with others not named, to destroy the property 
of persons resident in the State of Kentucky. 
It appears further that a disorganized condition 
of the civil government existed, the State being 
overrun with stragglers and deserters from 
both armies then engaged in civil war, and 
therefore, because of the inability or the 
failure of the duly constituted authorities to 
bring to justice the person charged with these 
lawless and criminal acts, the Governor of this 
State did offer a reward of $500 for the appre- 
hension of Ransom Fleming, dead or alive." 

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FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 

Now, for sure, the crowd knew something 
pregnant with meaning for the prisoner at the 
bar was coming — knew it without knowing 
yet what shape it would assume. Heads came 
forward row by row and necks were craned 
eagerly. 

"I hold here in my hand an official copy of 
the proclamation issued by the Governor of 
the State," continued Judge Priest. "Under 
its terms this reward was open to citizens and 
to officers of the law alike. All law-abiding 
persons were in fact urged to join in ridding 
the commonwealth of this man. He stood 
outside the pale of the law, without claim upon 
or right to its protection. 

"It would appear further," — the old Judge's 
whiny voice was rising now — "that this 
proclamation was never withdrawn, although 
with the passage of years it may have been 
forgotten. Under a strict construction of the 
law of the land and of the commonwealth, 
it may be held to have remained in force up 
to and including the date of the death of the 
said Ransom Fleming. It accordingly devolves 
upon this court, of its own motion, to set aside 
the indictment against the defendant at the 
bar and to declare him free — " 

For the time being His Honor got no further 
than that. Even the stupidest listener there 
knew now what had come to pass — knew that 
Judge Priest had found the way to liberty for 
young Jim Faxon. Cheering broke out — - 

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loud, exultant cheering and the stamping of 
many feet. Persons outside, on the square 
and in the street, might have been excused for 
thinking that a dignified and orderly session 
of court had suddenly turned into a public 
rally — a ratification meeting. Most of those 
actually present were too busy venting their 
own personal satisfaction to notice that young 
Jim was holding his sweetheart and his aunt 
in his arms; and there was too much noise 
going on round about them for any one to hear 
the panted hallelujahs of joy and relief that 
poured from the lips of the young woman and 
the old one. 

The Judge pounded for order with his gavel, 
pounding long and hard, before the uproar 
simmered down into a seething and boiling of 
confused, excited murmurings. 

"Mister Sheriff," he ordered, with a seeming 
sternness which by no means matched the look 
on his face, "keep order in this court! If any 
further disorder occurs here you will arrest 
the offenders and arraign them for contempt." 

The sheriff's bushy eyebrows expressed be- 
wdlderment. When it came to arresting a 
whole court house full of people, even so 
vigilant and earnest-minded an official as Sheriff 
Giles Bindsong hardly knew where to start in. 
Nevertheless he made answer promptly. 

"Yes, suh. Your Honor," he promised, "I 
will." 

"As I was saying when this interruption 

[100] 



FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 

occurred," went on the Judge, "it now de- 
volves upon the court to discharge the defen- 
dant at the bar from custody and to declare 
him entitled to the reward of $500 placed upon 
the head of the late Ransom Fleming by the 
Governor of Kentucky in the year 1865 — " 

Young Jim Faxon with his arms still around 
the heaving shoulders of the women, threw 
his head up: 

"No Judge, please, sir, I couldn't touch that 
money — not that" — he began, but Judge 
Priest halted him: 

"The late defendant not being of legal age, 
the court rules that this reward when collected 
may be turned over to his legal guardian. It 
may be that she will find a good and proper 
use to which this sum of money may be put." 

This time, the cheering, if anything, was 
louder even than it had been before; but when 
the puzzled sheriff looked around for instruc- 
tions regarding the proper course of procedure 
in such an emergency, the judge on the bench 
was otherwise engaged. The judge on the 
bench was exchanging handshakes of an openly 
congratulatory nature with the members of the 
county bar headed by Attorney for the Defense 
Dabney Prentiss. 



[101] 



IV 

JUDGMENT GOME TO 
DANIEL 



THE sidewheel packet Belle of Memphis 
landed at the wharf, and the personal 
manager of Daniel the Mystic came 
up the gravel levee with a darky behind 
him toting his valises. That afternoon all of 
the regidar town hacks were in use for a Masonic 
funeral, or he could have ridden up in solitary 
pomp. You felt on first seeing him that he was 
the kind of person who would naturally prefer 
to ride. 

He was a large man and, to look at, very 
impressive. On either lapel of his coat he 
wore a splendid glittering golden emblem. One 
was a design of a gold ax and the other was 
an Indian's head. His watch-charm was made 
of two animal claws — a tiger's claws I know 
now they must have been — jointed together 
at their butts by a broad gold band to form 
a downward-dropping crescent. On the middle 
finger of his right hand was a large sohtaire 

[102] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 

ring, the stone being supported by golden eagles 
with their wings interwoven. His vest was 
the most magnificent as to colors and pattern 
that I ever saw. The only other vest that to 
my mind would in any way compare with it I 
saw years later, worn by ^he advance agent 
of a trained dog and pony show. 

From our perch on the whittled railings of 
the boat-store porch we viewed his advent into 
our town. Steamboats always brought us to 
the river front if there was no business more 
pressing on hand, and particularly the Belle 
of Memphis brought us, because she was a 
regular sidewheeler with a double texas, and 
rising suns painted on her paddle boxes, and a 
pair of enormous gilded buckhorns nailed over 
her pilot hj)use to show she held the speed 
record of the White Collar Line. A big, red, 
sheet-iron spread-eagle was swung between her 
stacks, and the tops of the stacks were painted 
red and cut into sharp points like spearheads. 
She had a string band aboard that came out 
on the guards and played Suwannee River 
when she was landing and Goodby, My Lover, 
Goodby when she pulled out, and her head mate 
had the loudest swearing voice on the river 
and, as everybody knew, would as soon kill 
you as look at you, and maybe sooner. 

The Belle was not to be compared with any 
of our little stern wheel local packets. Even 
her two mud clerks, let alone her captain and 
her pilots, wore uniforms; and she came all 

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the way from Cincinnati and ran clean through 
to New Orleans, clearing our wharf of the 
cotton and tobacco and the sacked criaseng and 
peanuts and such commonplace things, and 
leaving behind in their stead all manner of 
interesting objects in crates and barrels. Once 
she brought a whole gipsy caravan — the Stanley 
family it was called — men, women and children, 
dogs, horses, wagons and all, a regular circus 
procession of them. 

She was due Tuesdays, but generally didn't 
get in until Wednesdays, and old Captain 
RawHngs would be the first to see her smoke 
coiling in a hazy smudge over Livingston 
Point and say the Belle was coming. Captain 
Rawlings had an uncanny knack of knowing 
all the boats by their smokes. The news 
would spread, and by the time she passed the 
Lower Towhead and was quartering across and 
running down past town, so she could turn and 
land upstream, there would be a lot of pleasurable 
excitement on the wharf. The black dray- 
men standing erect on their two-wheeled craft, 
like Roman chariot racers, would whirl their 
mules down the levee at a perilous gallop, 
scattering the gravel every which way, and our 
leisure class — boys and darkies — and a good 
many of the business men, would come down 
to the foot of Main Street to see her land and 
watch the rousters swarm off ahead of the 
bellowing mates and eat up the freight piles. 
One trip she even had white rousters, which 

[104] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 



was an event to be remembered and talked 
about afterward. They were grimy foreigners, 
who chattered in an outlandish tongue instead 
of chanting at their work as regular rousters 
did. 

This time when the Belle of Memphis came 
and the personal manager of Daniel the Mystic 
came up the levee, half a dozen of us were 
there and saw him coming. We ran down the 
porch steps and trailed him at a respectful 
distance, opinion being acutely divided among 
us as to what he might be. He was associated 
with the great outer world of amusement and 
entertainment; we knew that by the circum- 
stances of his apparel and his jewels and high 
hat and all, even if his whole bearing had not 
advertised his calling as with banners. There- 
fore, we speculated freely as we trailed him. 
He couldn't be the man who owned the Eugene 
Robinson Floating Palace, because the Floating 
Palace had paid its annual visit months before 
and by now must be away down past the Lower 
Bends in the bayou country. Likewise, the 
man who came in advance of the circus always 
arrived by rail with a yellow car full of circus 
bills and many talented artists in white overalls. 
I remember I decided that he must have some- 
thing to do with a minstrel show — Beach & 
Bowers' maybe, or Thatcher, primrose & West's. 

He turned into the Richland House, with the 
darky following him with his valises and us 
following the darky; and after he had regis- 

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tered, old Mr. Dudley Dunn, the clerk, let 
us look at the register. But two or three grown 
men looked first; the coming of one who was 
so plainly a personage had made some stir 
among the adult population. None there 
present, though, could read the name the 
stranger had left upon the book. Old Mr. 
Dunn, who was an expert at that sort of thing, 
couldn't decide himself whether it was O. O. 
Driscoil or A. A. Davent. The man must 
have spent years practicing to be able to pro- 
duce a signature that would bother any hotel 
clerk. I have subsequently ascertained that 
there are many abroad gifted as he was — 
mainly traveling salesmen. But if you couldn't 
read his name, all who ran might read the 
nature of his calling, for 'twas there set forth 
in two colors — he had borrowed the red-ink 
bottle from Mr. Dunn to help out the custo- 
mary violet — and done in heavy shaded 
letters — "Representing Daniel the Mystic" — 
with an ornamental flourish of scrolls and 
feathery beaded Hues following after. The 
whole took up a good fourth of one of Mr. 
Dudley Dunn's blue-ruled pages. 

Inside of an hour we were to know, too, who 
Daniel the Mystic might be, for in the hotel 
office and in sundry store windows were big 
bills showing a Hkeness of a man of magnificent 
mien, with long hair and his face in his hand, 
or rather in the thum.b and forefinger of his 
hand, with the thumb under the chin and the 

[106] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 



finger running up alongside the cheek. Under- 
neath were lines to the effect that Daniel the 
Mystic, Prince cf Mesmerism and Seer of the 
Unseen, was Coming, Coming! Also that night 
the Daily Evening News had a piece about him. 
He had rented St. Clair Hall for two nights 
hand-running and would give a mysterious, 
edifying and educational entertainment deal- 
ing with the wonders of science and baffling 
human description. The preliminaries, one 
learned, had been arranged by his affable and 
courteous personal representative now in our 
midst, Mr. D. C. Davello — so old Mr. Dudley 
Dunn was wrong in both of his guesses. 

Next morning Daniel the Mystic was on 
hand, looking enough like his pictured likeness 
to be recognized almost immediately. True, 
his features were not quite so massive and 
majestic as we had been led to expect, and he 
rather disappointed us by not carrying his 
face in his hand, but he was tall and slim enough 
for all purposes and wore his hair long and was 
dressed all in black. He had long, slender 
hands, and eyes that, we agreed, could seem 
to look right through you and tell what you 
were thinking about. 

For one versed in the mysteries of the unseen 
he was fairly democratic in his minglings with 
the people; and as for D. C. .Davello, no one, 
not even a candidate, could excel him in 
cordiality. Together they visited the office of 
the Daily Evening News and also the office 

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of our other paper, the Weekly Argus-Eye, 
which was upstairs over Leaken's job-printing 
shop. They walked through the market house 
and went to the city hall to call on the mayor 
and the city marshal and invite them to come 
to St. Clair Hall that night and bring their 
famihes with them, free of charge. Skinny 
Collins, who was of their tagging juvenile escort, 
at once began to put on airs before the rest. 
The city marshal was his father. 

About the middle of the afternoon they went 
into Felsburg Brothers Oak Hall Clothing 
Emporium, steered by Van Wallace, who 
seemed to be showing them round. We fol- 
lowed in behind, half a dozen or more of us, 
scuffling our dusty bare feet on the splintery 
floor between the aisles of racked-up coats. 
In the rear was Willie Richey, limping along 
on one toe and one heel. Willie Richey always 
had at least one stone bruise in the stone-bruise 
season, and sometimes two. 

They went clear back to the end of the store 
where the office was and the stove, but we, 
holding our distance, halted by the counter 
where they kept the gift suspenders and neck- 
ties — Felsburg Brothers gave a pair of sus- 
penders or a necktie with every suit, the choice 
being left to the customer and depending on 
whether in his nature the utilitarian or the 
decorative instinct was in the ascendency. 
We halted there, all eyes and ears and \sTiggling 
young bodies. The proprietors advanced and 

[108] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO D A N I E: L 

some of the clerks, and Van Wallace introduced 
the visitors to IVIr. Herman Felsburg and to 
^Ir. Ike Felsburg, his brother. Mr. Herman 
said, "Pleased to meetcher," with professional 
warmth, while Mr. Ike murmured, "Didn't 
catch the name?" inquiringly, such being the 
invariable formula of these two on greeting 
strangers. Cigars were passed round freely 
by D. C. Davello. He must have carried a 
pocketful of cigars, for he had more of them 
for some of the business men who came drop- 
ping in as if by chance. All of a sudden Van 
Wallace, noting how the group had grown, 
said it would be nice if the professor would 
show us what he could do. D. C. Davello 
said it wasn't customary for Daniel the Mystic 
to vulgarize his art by giving impromptu 
demonstrations, but perhaps he would make 
an exception just for this once. He spoke to 
Daniel the Mystic who was sitting silently in 
the Messrs. Felsburg's swivel office-chair with 
his face in his hands — the poster likeness was 
vindicated at last — and after a little arguing 
he got up and looked all about him slowly and 
in silence. His eye fell on the little huddle of 
small boys by the necktie counter and he said 
sharp and quick to Jack Irons: "Come here, 
boy!" 

I don't know yet how Jack Irons came to 
be of our company on that day; mostly Jack 
didn't run with us. He was sickly. He had 
spells and was laid up at home a good deal. 

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He couldn't even go barefooted in summer, 
because if he did his legs would be broken out 
all over with dew poison in no time. 

Jack Irons didn't belong to one of the promi- 
nent families either. He hved in a little brown 
house on the street that went down by the old 
Enders place. His mother was dead, and his 
sister worked in the county clerk's office and 
always wore black alpaca sleeves buttoned up 
on her forearms. His father was old Mr. Gid 
Irons that stayed in Scotter's hardware store. 
He didn't own the store, he just clerked there. 
Winter and summer he passed by our house 
four times a day, going to work in the mornmg 
and coming back at night, coming to dinner at 
twelve o'clock and going back at one. He was 
so regidar that people used to say if the whistle 
on Langstock's planing mill ever broke down 
they could still set the clocks by old Mr. Gid 
Irons. Perhaps you have knowTi men who 
were universally called old w^hile they were yet 
on the up-side of middle life.'^ Mr. Gid Irons 
was such a one as that. 

I used to like to slip into Scotter's just to see 
him scooping tenpenny nails and iron bolts 
out of open bins and kegs wdth his bare hands. 
Digging his hands down into those rusty, 
scratchy things never seemed to bother him, 
and it was fascinating to watch him and gave 
you little flesh -crawling sensations. He was 
a silent, small man, short but very erect, and 
when he walked he brought his heels down very 

[110] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 

hard first. The skin of his face and of his hands 
and his hair and mustache were all a sort of 
faded pinkish red, and he nearly always had 
iron rust on his fingers, as though to advertise 
that his name was Irons. 

By some boy intuition of my own I knew 
that he cut no wide swath in the lazy field of 
town life. When the veterans met at the city 
hall and organized their veterans' camp and 
named it the Gideon K. Irons Camp, it never 
occurred to me that they could be offering that 
honor to our old Mr. Gid Irons. I took it as 
a thing granted that there were some other 
Gideon Irons somewhere, one with a K in his 
name, a general probably, and no doubt a 
grand looking man on a white horse with a 
plume in his hat and a sword dangling, like 
the steel engraving of Robert E. Lee in our 
parlor. Whereas our Mr. Irons was shabby 
and poor; he didn't even own the house he 
lived in. 

This Jack Irons who was with us that day 
was his only son, and when Daniel the Mystic 
looked at him and called him. Jack stepped out 
from our midst and went toward him, his feet 
dragging a little and moving as if some one 
had him by the shoulders leading him forward. 
His thin arms dangled at his sides. He went 
on until he was close up to Paniel the Mystic. 
The man threw up one hand and snapped out 
"Stop," as though he were teaching tricks to 
a dog, and Jack flinched and dodged. He 

[HI] 



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stopped though, with red spots coming and 
going in the cheeks as though under the stoking 
of a blowpipe, and he breathed in sharp puffs 
that pulled his nostrils almost shut. Standing 
so, he looked as poor and weak and futile as a 
sprig of bleached celery, as a tow string, as 
a limp rag, as anything helpless and spineless 
that you had a mind to think of. The picture 
of him has hung in my mind ever since. Even 
now I recall how his meager frame quivered as 
Daniel the Mystic stooped until his eyes w^ere 
on a level with Jack's eyes, and said something 
to Jack over and over again in a half -whisper. 

Suddenly his hands shot out and he began 
making slow stroking motions downward before 
Jack's face, with his fingers outstretched as 
though he were combing apart hanks of invisible 
yarn. Next with a quick motion he rubbed 
Jack's eyelids closed, and massaged his temples 
with his thumbs, and then stepped back. 

There stood Jack Irons with his eyes shut, 
fast asleep. He was still on his feet, bolt 
upright, but fast asleep — that was the marvel 
of it — with his hands at his side and the 
flushed color all gone from his cheeks. It 
scared us pretty badly, we boys. I think some 
of the grown men were a little bit scared too. 
We were glad that none of us had been singled 
out for this, and yet envious of Jack and his 
sudden elevation to prominence and the center 
of things. 

Daniel the Mystic seemed satisfied. He 

[112] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 

mopped drops of sweat off his face. He forked 
two fingers and darted them hke a snake's 
tongue at Jack, and Jack, still asleep, obeyed 
them, as if he had been steel and they the two 
horns of a magnetic horseshoe. He swayed 
back and forth, and then Daniel the Mystic 
gave a sharp shove at the air with the palms 
of both hands — and Jack fell backward as 
though he had been hit. 

But he didn't fall as a boy would, doubling 
up and giving in. He fell stiff, like a board, 
without a bend in him anywhere. Daniel the 
Mystic leaped forward and caught him before 
he struck, and eased him down flat on his back 
and folded his arms up across his breast, and 
that made him look Kke dead. 

More wonders were coming. Daniel the 
Mystic and D. C. Davello hauled two wooden 
chairs up close together and placed them facing 
each other; then lifting Jack, still rigid and 
frozen, they put his head on the seat of one 
chair and his heels on the seat of the other and 
stepped back and left him suspended there in a 
bridge. We voiced our astonishment in an 
anthem of gasps and overlapping exclamations. 
*Not one of us in that to^ni, boy or man, 
had ever seen a person in hypnotic catalepsy. 

Before we had had time enough to take this 
marvel all in, Daniel the Mystic put his foot 
on Jack and stepped right up on his stomach, 
balancing himself and teetering gently above 
all our heads. He was tall and must have 

1113] 



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been heavy; for Jack's body bent and swayed 
under the weight, yet held it up in the fashion 
of a hickory springboard. Some of the men 
jumped up then and seemed about to inter- 
fere. Old Mr. Herman Felsburg's face was 
red and he sputtered, but before he could get 
the words out Daniel the Mystic was saying 
soothingly : 

"Be not alarmed, friends. The subject is 
in no danger. The subject feels no pain and 
will suffer no injury." 

"Just the same. Mister, you get down off 
that little boy," ordered Mr. Felsburg. "And 
you please wake him up right away. I don't 
care much to see things done like that in my 
store." 

"As you say," said Daniel the Mystic easily, 
smiling all round him at the ring of our startled 
faces. "I merely wished to give you a small 
demonstration of my powers. And, believe 
me, the subject feels no pain whatsoever." 

He stepped off of him, though, and Jack's 
body came up straight and flat again. They 
lifted him off the chairs and straightened him 
up, and Daniel the Mystic made one or two 
rapid passes in front of his face. Jack opened 
his eyes and began to cry weakly. One of the 
clerks brought him a drink, but he couldn't 
swallow it for sobbing, and only blubbered up 
the water when IVIr. Felsburg held the glass 
to his lips. Van Wallace, who looked a little 
frightened and uneasy himself, gave two of the 

[114] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 

boys a nickel apiece and told us we had better 
get Jack home. 

Jack could walk all right, with one of us upon 
either side of him, but he was crying too hard 
to answer the questions we put to him, we 
desiring exceedingly to know how he felt and 
if he knew anything while he was asleep. Just 
as we got him to his own gate he gasped out, 
*'0h, fellows, I'm sick!" and collapsed bodily 
at our feet, hiccoughing and moaning. His 
sister met us at the door as we lugged Jack in 
by his arms and legs. Even at home she had 
ber black alpaca sleeves buttoned up to her 
elbows. I think she must have slept in them. 
We told her what had happened, or tried to 
tell her, all of us talking at once, and she made 
us lay Jack on a little rickety sofa in their 
parlor — there was a sewing machine in there, 
too, I noticed — and as we were coming away 
we saw a negro girl who worked for them 
nmning across the street to Tillman & Son's 
giocery where there was a telephone that the 
whole neighborhood used. 

\Mien I got home it was suppertime and the 
family were at the table. My sister said some- 
body must be sick down past the old Enders 
place, because she had seen Doctor Lake driving 
out that way as fast as his horse would take 
him. But I listened with only half an ear, 
being mentally engaged elsewhere. I was 
wondering how I was going to get my berry- 
picking money out of a nailed-up cigar-box 

[ 115 ] 



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sa\Tngs bank without attracting too much 
attention on the part of other members of the 
family. I had been saving up that money 
hoping to amass seventy-five cents, which 
was the lowest cash price for Tom Birch's 
tame flying squirrel, a pet thing that would 
stay in your pocket all day and not bite you 
unless you tried to drag him out; but now I 
had a better purpose in view for my accumulated 
funds. If it took the last cent I meant to be 
in St. Clair Hall that night. 

There was no balcony in St. Clair Hall, but 
only a sort of little hanging coop up above 
where the darkies sat, and the fifteen-cent seats 
were the two back rows of seats on the main 
floor. These were very handy to the door but 
likely to be overly warm on cold nights, when 
the two big, pearshaped stoves would be red 
hot, with the live coals showing through the 
cracks in their bases like broad grins on the 
faces of apoplectic twins. The cracked varnish 
upon the back of the seats would boil and 
bubble visibly then and the scorching wood 
grow so hot you couldn't touch your bare 
hand to it, and a fine, rich, turpentiny smell 
would savor up the air. 

Being the first of the boys to arrive I secured 
the coveted corner seat from wliich you had a 
splendid view of the stage, only slightly ob- 
scured by one large wooden post painted a pale 
sick blue. D. C. Davello was at the door 
taking tickets, along with Sid Farrell, who ran 

[116] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 

St. Clair Hall. It kept both of them pretty 
busy, because there were men paying their 
way in whom I had never seen there at all 
except when the Democrats had their rally 
just before election, or when the ladies were 
holding memorial services on President Jeffer- 
son Davis' birthday — men like old Judge 
Priest, and Major Joe Sam Covington, who 
Dwned the big tan yard, and Captain Howell, 
the bookdealer, and Mr. Herman Felsburg, 
and Doctor Lake, and a lot of others. Most 
of them took seats well down in front, I sup- 
posing that the educational and scientific 
features of the promised entertainment had 
drawn them together. 

The curtain was cracked through in places 
and had a peephole in the middle, with black 
smudges round it like a bruised eye. It had a 
painting on it showing a street full of back- 
water clean up to the houses, and some elegant 
ladies and gentlemen in fancy-dress costumes 
coming down the stone steps of a large building 
like a county courthouse and getting into a 
couple of funny-looking skiffs. I seem to have 
heard somewhere that this represented a street 
scene in Venice, but up until the time St. Clair 
Hall burned down I know that I considered 
it to be a picture of some other, larger town 
than ours during a spring rise in the river, the 
same as we had every March. All round the 
inundated district were dirty white squares 
containing the lettered cards of business houses 

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— Doctor Cupps, the dentist, and Anspach, 
the Old-Estabhshed Hatter — which never 
varied from year to year, even when an adver- 
tiser died or went out of business. We boys 
knew these signs by heart. 

But to pass the time of waiting we read them 
over and over again, until the curtain rolled 
up disclosing the palace scene, with a double 
row of chairs across the stage in half-moon 
formation, and down in front, where the villains 
died at regular shows, a table with a water 
pitcher on it. Daniel the Mystic came out 
of the wings and bowed, and th'3re was a thin 
splashing of hand-clapping, mostly from the 
rear seats, with Sid Farrell and D. C. Daveilo 
furnishing lustier sounds of applause. First 
off Daniel the Mystic made a short speech fuU 
of large, difficult words. We boys wTiggled 
during it, being anxious for action. We had 
it soon. D. C. Daveilo mounted the stage and 
he and Daniel the Mystic brought into view a 
thing they called a cabinet, but which looked 
to us hke a box frame with black calico curtains 
nailed on it. When they got this placed to 
their satisfaction, Daniel the Mystic, smiling 
in a friendly way, asked that a committee of 
local citizens kindly step up and see that no 
fraud or deception was practiced in what was 
about to follow. I was surprised to see Doctor 
Lake and Mr. Herman Felsburg rise promptly 
at the invitation and go up on the stage, where 
they watched closely while D. C. Daveilo tied 

[118] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 



Daniel the Mystic's hands behind him with 
white ropes, and then meshed him to a chair 
inside the cabinet with so many knottings and 
snarlings of the twisted bonds that he looked 
like some long, black creature helplessly caught 
in a net. This done, the two watchers shpped 
into chairs at opposite ends of the haK-moon 
formation. D. C. Davello laid a tambourine, a 
banjo and a dinner bell on the bound man's 
knees and whipped the calico draperies to. 
Instantly the bell rang, the banjo was thrummed 
and the tambourine rattled giddily, and white 
hands flashed above the shielding draperies. 
But when the manager cried out and jerked the 
curtains back, there sat the Mystic one still a 
prisoner, tied up all hard and fast. We ap- 
plauded then like everything. 

The manager unroped him and went back 
to his place by the door, and after Daniel the 
Mystic had chafed his wrists where the red 
marks of the cords showed he came down a sort 
of Kttle wooden runway into the audience, and 
standing in the aisle said something about 
now giving a demonstration of something. I 
caught the words occultism and spiritualism, 
both strangers to my understandiug up to 
that time. He put his hands across his eyes 
for a moment, with his head thrown back, 
and then he walked up the aisle four or five 
steps hesitating and faltering, and finally halted 
right alongside of Mr. Morton Harrison, the 
wharf master. 

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j> 



"I seem," he said slowly, in a deep, solemn 
voice, "to see a dim shape of a young man 
hovering here. I get the name of Claude - 
no, no, it is Clyde. Clyde would tell you, 
his voice sank lower and quavered effectively — ■ 
"Clyde says to tell you that he is very happy 
over there — he says you must not worry about 
a certain matter that is now worrying you for 
it will all turn out for the best — and you will 
be happy. And now Clyde seems to be fading 
away. Clyde is gone!" 

We didn't clap our hands at that — it would 
have been too much like clapping hands at a 
funeral — because we knew it must be Clyde 
Harrison, who had got drowned not two 
months before trying to save a little girl that 
fell overboard off the wharfboat. Just a day 
or two before there had been a piece in the 
paper telling about the pubHc fund that was 
being raised to put a monument over Clyde's 
grave. 

So we couldn't applaud that, wonderful as 
it was, and we shivered in a fearsome, wholly 
delightful anticipation and sat back and waited 
for more spirits to come. But seemingly there 
weren't any more spirits about just then, and 
after a little Daniel the Mystic returned to the 
stage and announced that we would now have 
the crowning achievement of the evening's 
entertainment — a scientific exhibition of the 
new and awe-inspiring art of mesmerism in all 
;t« various branches. 

[120] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 

"For this," he stated impressively, "I desire 
the aid of volunteers from the audience, promis- 
ing them that I will do them no harm, but on 
the contrary will do them much good. I want 
fellow townspeople of yours for this — gentle- 
men in whom you all have confidence and 
respect. I insist only upon one thing — that 
they shall be one and all total strangers to me." 

He advanced to the tin trough of the flick- 
ering gas footlights and smiled out over it 
at us. 

"Who among you will come forward now? 
Come!" 

Before any one else could move, two young 
fellows got up from seats in different parts of the 
hall and went up the Kttle runway. We had 
never seen either of them before, which seemed 
a strange thing, for we boys kept a sharp eye 
upon those who came and went. They were 
both of them tall and terribly thin, with lank 
hair and listless eyes, and they moved as though 
their hip joints were rusty and hurt them. But 
I have seen the likes of them often since then — 
lying in a trance in a show window, with the 
covers puckered close up under the drawn face. 
I have peered down a wooden chute to see such 
a one slumbering in his coflSn underground for 
a twenty -four or forty -eight-hour test. But 
these were the first of the trjbe our town had 
encountered. 

On their lagging heels followed two that I 
did know. One was the lumpish youth who 

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helped Riley Putnam put up showbills and the 
other was Buddy Grogan, who worked in Sid 
Farrell's livery stable. Both of them were 
grinning sheepishly and falling over their own 
feet. And following right behind them in turn 
came a shabby httle man who had iron rust 
on his clothes, and walked all reared back, 
bringing his heels down hard with thumps at 
every step. It was old Mr. Gid Irons. We 
gaped at him. 

I had never seen Mr. Gid Irons at St. Clair 
Hall before, none of us had; and in our limited 
capacities we were by way of being consistent 
patrons of the drama. In a flash it came over 
me that Jack must have told his father what 
a wonderful sensation it was to be put to sleep 
standing up on your feet, and that his father 
had come to see for himself how it felt. I judged 
that others besides us were surprised. There 
was a burring little stir, and some of the audi- 
ence got up and edged down closer to the 
front. 

Mr. Gid Irons went on up the httle runway 
and took a seat near one end of the haK-moon 
of chairs. Where he sat the blowy glare of one 
of the gas footlights flickered up in his face and 
we could see that it seemed redder than com- 
mon, and his eyes were drawn together so close 
that only little slits of them show^ed under his 
red-gray, bushy eyebrows. But that might 
have been the effect of the gaslight at his 
feet. You could tell though that Daniel the 

[U2] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 

Mystic was puzzled and perplexed, startled 
almost, by the appearance of this middle-aged 
person among his volunteers. He kept eyeing 
him furtively with a worried line between his 
eyes as he made a round of the other four, 
shaking hands elaborately with each and bend- 
ing to find out the names. He came to Mr. 
Irons last. 

"And what is the name of this friend.^^" he 
asked in his grand, deep voice. 

^ir. Irons didn't answer a word. He stood 
up, just so, and hauled off and hit Daniel the 
Mystic in the face. Daniel the Mystic said 
"Ouch!" in a loud, pained tone of voice, and 
fell backward over a chair and sat down hard 
right in the middle of the stage. George 
Muller, the town wit, declared afterward that 
he was looking right at Daniel the Mystic, and 
that Daniel the Mystic sat down so hard it 
parted his hair in the middle. 

I heard somebody behind me make a choking 
outcry and turned to see D. C. Davello just 
bursting in upon us, with shock and surprise 
spreading all over his face. But just at that 
precise moment Fatty McManus, who was the 
biggest man in town, jumped up with an awk- 
ward clatter of his feet and stumbled and fell 
right into D. C. Davello, throwing his mighty 
arms about him as he did so. Locked together 
they rolled backward out of the door, and with 
a subconscious sense located somewhere in the 
back part of my skull I heard them go bumping 

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down the steep stairs. I think there were ten 
distinct bumps. 

David Pryor, one of our policemen, was 
sitting almost directly in front of me. He 
had been a policeman only two or three months 
and was the youngest of the three who policed 
the town at nights. When old ]\lr. Gid Irons 
Imocked Daniel the Mystic down David Pryor 
bounced out of his seat and called out some- 
thing and started to run toward them. 

Old Judge Priest blocked his way on the 
instant, filling the whole of the narrow aisle. 

"Son," he said, "where you aimia' to go to.?" 

"Lemme by. Judge," sputtered Da\ad Pryor; 
*' there's a fight startin' up yonder!" 

Judge Priest didn't budge a visible inch, 
except to glance quickly backward over his 
shoulder toward the stage. 

"Son," he asked, "it takes two, don't it, 
to make a fight .f^" 

"Yes," panted David Pryor, trying to get 
past him, "yes, but " 

"Well, son, if you'd take another look up 
there you'd see there's only one person en- 
gaged in fightin' at this time. That's no fight 
— only a merited chastisement." 

"A chesty which?" asked David Pryor, 
puzzled. He was young and new to his job 
and full of the zeal of duty. But Judge Priest 
stood for law and order embodied, and David 
Pryor wavered. 

"David, my son," said Judge Priest, "if 

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A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 



you, a sworn officer of the law, don't know what 
chastisement means you ought to. Set down 
by me here and I'll try to explain its meanin's." 
He took him by the arm and pulled the be- 
wildered young policeman down into a seat 
alongside his own and held him there, though 
David was still protesting and struggling feebly 
to be loose. 

This I heard and saw out of a corner of my 
mind, the rest of me being concentrated on 
what was going on up on the stage among 
the overturning cliaus and those scattering 
recruits in the cause of mesmerism. I saw 
Daniel the Mystic scramble to his feet and 
skitter about. He was wildly, furiously pained 
and bewildered. It must be painful in the 
extreme, and bewildering too, to any man to be 
suddenly and emphatically smitten in his good 
right eye by one who seemed all peace and 
elderly sedateness, and to behold an audience, 
which though cold, perhaps, had been friendly 
enough, arise in its entirety and most vocifer- 
ously cheer the smiting. How much more so, 
then, in the case of a Seer of the Unseen, who 
is supposed to be able to discern such things 
ahead of their happening .^^ 

Daniel the Mystic looked this way and that, 
seeking a handy way of escape, but both ways 
were barred to him. At one side of the stage 
was Doctor Lake, aiming a walking stick at him 
Kke a spear; and at the other side was Mr. 
Felsburg, with an umbrella for a weapon. 

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Old Mr. Gid Irons was frightfully quick. 
His hands shot out with hard, fast dabbing 
motions like a cat striking at a rolling ball, 
and he planted his fists wheresoever he aimed. 

Daniel the Mystic's long arms flew and 
flailed wildly in air and his mane of hair tossed. 
He threw his crossed hands across his face to 
save it and Mr. Irons hit him in the stomach. 
He lowered his hands to his vitals in an agonized 
clutch and Mr. Irons hit him in the jaw. 

I know now in the light of a riper experience 
of such things that it was most wonderfully 
fast work, and all of it happening much faster 
than the time I have taken here to tell it, Mr. 
Gid Irons wading steadily in and Daniel the 
Mystic flopping about and threshing and yell- 
ing — he was beginning to yell — and the 
chairs flipping over on their backs and every-^ 
body standing up and whooping. All of a 
sudden Daniel the Mystic went down flat on 
his back, calling for help on some one whose 
name I will take oath was not D. C. Davello. 
It sounded more hke Thompson. 

Doctor Lake dropped his walking stick and 
ran out from the wings. 

*'It would be highly improper to strike a 
man when he's down," he counseled Mr. Irons 
as he grabbed Daniel the Mystic by the armpits 
and heaved him up flappingly. "Allow me 
to help the gentleman to his feet." 

Mr. Irons hit him just once more, a straight 
jabbing center blow, and knocked him clear 

[126] 



A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 



into and under his black calico cabinet, so far 
in it and under it that its curtains covered all 
but his legs, which continued to flutter and 
waggle feebly. 

"Get a couple-a chairs, Gideon." This 
advice came from Mr. Herman Felsburg who 
jumped up and down and directed an imaginary 
orchestra of bass drummers with his umbrella 
for a baton — " Get a couple-a chairs and stand 
on the son-of-a-gun's stomach. It does the 
subcheck no harm and the subcheck feels no 
pain. As a favor to me, Gideon, I ask you, 
stand on his stomach." 

But ;Mr. Irons was through. He turned 
about and came doTT^Ti the runway and passed 
out, rearing back and jarring his heels down 
hard. If he had spoken a single word the whole 
time I hadn't heard it. As I remarked several 
times before he was a small man and so I am 
not trying to explain the optical delusion of the 
moment. I am only trying to tell how Mr. 
Gid Irons looked as he passed me. He looked 
seven feet tall. 

It must have been just about this time that 
D. C. Davello worked his way out from under- 
neath the hippopotamously vast bulk of Fatty 
McManus and started running back up the 
stairs. But before he reached the door the city 
marshal, who had been standing downstairs all 
the time and strange to say, hadn't, it would 
appear, heard any of the clamor, ran up behind 
him and arrested him for loud talking and 

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disorderly conduct. The city marshal obtusely 
didn't look inside the door for visual evidences 
of any trouble within; he would listen to no 
reason. He grabbed D. C. Davello by the 
coat collar and pulled him back to the sidewalk 
and had him halfway across Market Square 
to the lock-up before the captive could make 
him understand what had really happened. 
Even then the official displayed a dense and 
gummy stupidity, for he kept demanding 
further details and made the other tell every- 
thing over to him at least twice. This also 
took time, because D. C. Davello was excited 
and stammering and the city marshal was 
constantly interrupting him. So that, by the 
time he finally got the straight of things into 
his head and they got back to St. Clair Hall, 
the Hghts were out and the stairs were dark 
and the last of the audience was tailing away. 
The city marshal stopped, as if taken with & 
clever idea, and looked at his watch and 
remarked to D. C. Davello that he and his 
friend the Professor would just about have 
time to catch the 10:50 accommodation for 
Louisville if they hurried; which seemed 
strange advice to be giving, seeing that D. 
C. Davello hadn't asked about trains at all. 

Nevertheless he took it — the advice — 
which also necessitated taking the train. 

Even in so short a time the news seemed to 
have spread with most mysterious speed, that 
Daniel the Mystic had canceled his second 

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A JUDGMENT COME TO DANIEL 

night's engagement and would be leaving us 
on the 10:50. Quite a crowd went to the depot 
to see him off. We boys tagged along, too, 
keeping pace with Judge Priest and Doctor 
Lake and Major Joe Sam Covington and certain 
other elderly residents, who, as they tramped 
along, maintained a sort of irregular formation, 
walking two by two just as they did when the 
Veterans' Camp turned out for a funeral or a 
reunion. 

There must have been something wrong 
down the road that night with the 10 : 50. 
Usually she was anywhere from one to three 
hours late, but this night she strangely came 
in on time. She was already whistling for the 
crossing above Kattersmith's brickyard when 
we arrived, moving in force. D. C. Davello 
saw us from afar and remembered some busi- 
ness that took him briskly back behind the 
freight shed. But Daniel the Mystic sat on a 
baggage truck with a handkerchief to his face, 
and seemed not to see any of us coming until 
our advance guard filed up and flanked him. 
/ "Well, suh," said Judge Priest, "you had a 
signal honor paid you in this community 
tonight." 

Daniel the Mystic raised his head. The 
light from a tin reflector lamp shone on his 
face and showed its abundant damages. You 
would hardly have known Daniel the Mystic 
for the same person. His gorgeousness and 
grandeur of person had fallen from him like 

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a discarded garment, and his nose dripped 

redly. 

"I — had — what?" he answered, speak- 
ing somewhat thickly because of his swollen 
lip. 

"A mighty signal honor," said Judge Priest, 
in his thin whine. "In the presence of a 
representative gatherin' of our best people you 
were Kcked by the most efficient and the 
quickest-actin' scout that ever served in General 
John Morgan's entire cavalry command." 

But the reply of Daniel the Mystic, if he 
made one, was never heard of living man, 
because at that moment the 10 : 50 accom- 
modation came in and her locomotive began 
exhausting. 



1130] 



V 

UP CLAY STREET 



ONE behind the other, three short sec- 
tions of a special came sliding into 
the yard sidings below the depot. 
The cars clanked their drawheads to- 
gether like manacles, as they were chivied and 
bullied and shoved about by a regular chain- 
gang boss of a switch engine. Some of the cars 
were ordinary box cars, just the plain galley 
slaves of commerce, but painted a uniform blue 
and provided with barred gratings; some were 
flat cars laden with huge wheeled burdens 
hooded under tarpaulins; and a few were 
sleeping cars that had been a bright yellow at 
the beginning of the season, with flaring red 
lettering down the sides, but now were faded 
to a shabby saffron. 

It was just getting good broad day. The 
sleazy dun clouds that had been racked up 
along the east — -like mill-ends left over from 
night's remnant counter, as a poet might have 
said had there been a poet there to say it — ^ 

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were now torn asunder, and through the tear 
the sun showed out, blushing red at his own 
nakedness and pushing ahead of him long 
shadows that stretched on the earth the vrrong 
way. There was a taste of earliness in the air, 
a sort of compounded taste of dew and dust 
and maybe a little malaria. 

Early as it was, there was a whopping big 
delegation of small boys, white and black, 
on hand for a volunteer reception committee. 
The eyes of these boys were bright and expect- 
ant in contrast to the eyes of the yard hands, 
who looked half dead for sleep and yawned 
and shivered. The boys welcomed the show 
train at the depot and ran alongside its various 
sections. They were mainly barefooted, but 
they avoided splinters in the butts of the 
crossties and sharp clinkers in the cinder ballast 
of the roadbed with the instinctive agility of a 
race of primitives. 

Almost before the first string of cars halted 
and while the clanking of the iron links still ran 
down its length like a code signal being repeated, 
a lot of mop-headed men in overalls appeared, 
crawling out from all sorts of unsuspected sleep- 
ing places aboard. Magically a six-team of 
big white Norman horses materialized, dragging 
empty traces behind them. They must have 
been harnessed up together beforehand in a 
stock car somewhere. A corrugated wooden 
runway appeared to sprout downward and 
outward from an open car door, and down it 

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UP CLAY STREET 



bumped a high, open wagon with a big sheet- 
iron cooking range mounted on it and one short 
length of stovepipe rising above hke a stumpy 
fighting-top on an armored cruiser. As the 
wheels thumped against the solid earth a man 
in a dirty apron, who had been balancing him- 
seK in the wagon, touched a match to some 
fuel in his firebox. Instantly black smoke 
came out of the top of the stack and a stinging 
smell of burning wood trailed behind him, as 
the six-horse team hooked on and he and his 
moving kitchen went lurching and rolling across 
shallow guUeys and over a rutted common, right 
into the red eye of the upcoming sun. 

Other wagons followed, loaded with blue 
stakes, with coils of ropes, with great rolls of 
earth-stained canvas, and each took the same 
route, with four or six horses to drag it and a 
born charioteer in a flannel shirt to drive it. The 
common destination was a stretch of fiat land a 
quarter of a mile away from the track. Truck 
patches backed up against this site on one side 
and the outlying cottages of the town flanked 
it on the other, and it was bordered with frayed 
fringes of ragweed and niggerheads, and was 
dotted over with the dried-mud chimneys of 
crawfish. In the thin turf here a geometric 
pattern of iron laying-out pins now appeared 
to spring up simultaneously, with rag pennons 
of red and blue fluttering in the tops, and at 
once a crew of men set to work with an orderly 
confusion, only stopping now and then to 

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bellow back the growing swarms of boys who 
hung eagerly on the flank of each new operation. 
True to the promise of its hthographed glories 
the circus was in our midst, rain or shine, for 
this day and date only. 

If there is any of the boy spirit left in us 
circus day may be esteemed to bring it out. 
And considering his age and bulk and his 
calling, there was a good deal of the boy left 
in our circuit judge — so much boy, in fact, 
that he, an early riser of note in a town much 
given to early rising, was up and dressing this 
morning a good hour ahead of his usual time. 
As he dressed he kept going to the side window 
of his bedroom and looking out. Eventually 
he had his reward. Through a break in the 
silver-leaf poplars he saw a great circus wagon 
crossing his line of vision an eighth of a mile 
away. Its top and sides were masked in canvas, 
but he caught a flicker of red and gold as the 
sun glinted on its wheels, and he saw the four 
horses tugging it along, and the dipping figure 
of the driver up above. The sight gave the 
old judge a little thrill down inside of him. 

" I reckin that fellow was right when he said 
a man is only as old as he feels," said Judge 
Priest to himself. "And I'm glad court ain't 
in session — I honestly am." He opened his 
door and called down into the body of the silent 
house below: "Jeff! Oh, Jeff!" 

"Yas, suh," came up the promxpt answer. 

"Jeff, you go out yonder to the kitchen and 

[134] 



UP CLAY STREET 



tell Aunt Dilsey to hurry along my breakfast. 
I'll be down right away." 

"Yas, suh," said Jeff; "I'U bring it right in, 
suh." 

Jeff was as anxious as the judge that the 
ceremony of breakfast might be speedily over; 
and, to tell the truth, so was Aunt Dilsey, who 
fluttered with impatience as she fried the judge's 
matinal ham and dished up the hominy. Aunt 
Dilsey regularly patronized all circuses, but 
she specialized in sideshows. The sideshow 
got a dime of hers before the big show started 
and again after it ended. She could remember 
from year to year just how the sideshow banners 
looked and how many there were of them, and 
on the mantelpiece in her cabin was ranged a 
fly-blown row of freaks' photographs purchased 
at the exceedingly reasonable rate of ten cents 
for cabinet sizes and twenty-five for the full 
length. 

So there was no delay about serving the 
judge's breakfast or about clearing the table 
afterward. For that one morning, anyhow, 
the breakfast dishes went unwashed. Even 
as the judge put on his straw hat and came out 
on the front porch, the back door was aheady 
discharging Jeff and Aimt Dilsey. By the 
time the judge had traversed the shady yard 
and unlatched the front gate, Jeff was halfway 
to the showground and mending his gait all 
the time. Less than five minutes later Jeff 
was being ordered, somewhat rudely, off the 

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side of a boarded-up cage, upon which he had 
chmbed with a view to ascertaining, by a peep 
through the barred air-vent under the driver's 
seat, whether the mysterious creature inside 
looked as strange as it smelled; and less than 
^ve minutes after that, Jeff, having reached a 
working understanding with the custodian of 
the cage, who likewise happened to be in charge 
of certain ring stock, was convoj^ing a string 
of trick ponies to the water-trough over by the 
planing mill. Aunt Dilsey, moving more slowly 
— yet guided, nevertheless, by a sure instinct — 
presently anchored herself at the precise spot 
where the sideshow tent would stand. Here 
several lodge sisters soon joined her. They 
formed a comfortable brown clump, stationary 
in the midst of many brisk activities. 

The judge stood at his gate a minute, light* 
ing his corncob pipe. As he stood there a 
farm wagon clattered by, coming in from the 
country. Its bed was full of kitchen chairs 
and the kitchen chairs contained a family, 
including two pretty country girls in their 
teens, who were dressed in fluttering white with 
a plenitude of red and blue ribbons. The 
head of the family, driving, returned the judge's 
waved greeting somewhat stiffly. It was plain 
that his person was chafed and his whole being 
put under restraint by the fell influences of a 
Sunday coat and the hard collar that was 
buttoned on to the neckband of his blue shirt. 

His pipe being lighted, the judge headed 

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UP CLAY STREET 



leisurely in the same direction that the laden 
farm wagon had taken. Along Clay Street 
from the judge's house to the main part of 
town, where the business houses and the stores 
centered, was a mile walk nearly, up a fairly 
steepish hill and down again, but shaded well 
all the way by water maples and silver-leaf 
trees. There weren't miore than eight houses 
or ten along Clay Street, and these, with the 
exception of the judge's roomy, white-porched 
house standing aloof in its two acres of poorly 
kept lawn, were all Httle two-room frame houses, 
each in a small, bare inclosure of its own, with 
wide, weed-grown spaces between it and its 
next-door neighbors. These were the homes 
of those who in a city would have been tene- 
ment dwellers. In front of them stretched 
narrow wooden sidewalks, dappled now with 
patches of shadow and of soft, warm sunshine. 
Perhaps halfway along was a particularly 
shabby Httle brown house that pushed close 
up to the street line. A straggly catalpa tree 
shaded its narrow porch. This was the home 
of Lemuel Hammersmith; and Hammersmith 
seems such a name as should by right belong 
to a masterful, upstanding man with something 
of Thor or Vulcan or Judas Maccabseus in him — 
it appears to have that sound. But Lemuel 
Hammersmith was no such man. Li a city he 
would have been lost altogether — swallowed 
up among a mass of more important, pushing 
folk. But in a town as small as ours he had a 

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distinction. He belonged to more secret orders 
than any man in town — he belonged to all 
there were. Their small mummeries and mys- 
teries, conducted behind closed doors, had for 
him a lure that there was no resisting; he just 
had to join. As I now recall, he never rose 
to high rank in any one of them, never wore the 
impressive regaha and the weighty title of a 
supreme officer; but when a lodge brother 
died he nearly always served on the committee 
that drew up the resolutions of respect. In 
moments of haK-timid expanding he had been 
known to boast mildly that his signature, 
appended to resolutions of respect, suitably 
engrossed and properly framed, hung on the 
parlor walls of more than a hundred homes. 
He was a small and inconsequential man and he 
led a small and inconsequential life, giving his 
days to deriving in Noble & Barry's coal office 
for fifty dollars a month, and his nights to his 
lodge meetings and to drawing up resolutions of 
respect. In the latter direction he certainly 
had a gift; the underlying sympathy of his 
nature found its outlet there. And he had a 
pale, sickly wife and a paler, sicklier child. 

On this circus day he had been stationed in 
front of his house for a good half hour, watching 
up the street for some one. This some one, 
as it turned out, was Judge Priest. At sight 
of the old judge coming along, IVIr. Hammer- 
smith went forward to meet him and fell in 
alongside, keeping pace with him. 

[138] 



UP CLAY STREET 



"Good mornin', son," said the old judge, 
who Imew everybody that lived in town. "How's 
the Kttle feller this mornin'?" 

"Judge, I'm sorry to say that Lemuel Junior 
ain't no better this mornin'," answered the 
little coal clerk with a hitching of his voice. 
"We're afraid — his mother and me — that 
he ain't never goin' to be no better. I've had 
Doctor Lake in again and he says there really 
ain't anything we can do — he says it's just a 
matter of a Uttle time now. Old Aunt Hannah 
Holmes says he's got bone erysipelas, and that 
if we could 'a' got him away from here in time 
we might have saved liim. But I don't knov>^ 
• — we done the best we could. I try to be 
reconciled. Lemuel Junior he suffers so at 
times that it'll be a mercy, I reckin — but 
it's hard on you, judge — it's turrible hard on 
you when it's your only child." 

"My son," said the old judge, speaking 
slowly, "it's so hard that I know nothin' I 
could say or do would be any comfort to you. 
But I'm sorry — I'm mighty sorry for you all. 
I know what it is. I buried mine, both of 'em, 
in one week's time, and that's thirty years and 
more ago; but it still hurts mightily sometimes. 
I wish't there was something I could do." 

"Well, there is," said Hammersmith — 
"there is, judge, maybe. That's why I've 
been standin' down here waitin' for you. You 
see, Lemmy he was turrible sharp set on goin' 
to the circus today. He's been readin' the 

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circus bills that I'd bring home to him until he 
knew 'em off by heart. He always did have 
a mighty bright m^ind for rememberin' things. 
We was aimin' to take him to the show this 
evenin', bundled up in a bedquilt, you know, 
and settin' off with him in a kind of a quiet 
place somewhere. But he had a bad night and 
we just can't make out to do it — he's too weak 
to stand it — and it was most breakin' his 
heart for a while; but then he said if he could 
just see the parade he'd be satisfied. 

"And, judge, that's the point — he's took 
it into his head that you can fix it some way 
so he can see it. We tried to argue him out of 
it, but you know how it is, try in' to argue with 
a child as sick as Lemuel Junior's been. He — 
he won't Ksten to nothin' we say." 

A great compassion shadowed the judge's 
face. His hand went out and found the sloping 
shoulder of the father and patted it clumsily. 
He didn't say anything. There didn't seem 
to be anything to say. 

"So we just had to humor him along. His 
maw has had him at the front window for an 
hour now, propped up on a pillow, waitin' for 
you to come by. He wouldn't listen to nothin' > 
else. And, judge — if you can humor him at 
all — any way at all — do it, please — " 

He broke off because they were almost in 
the shadow of the catalpa tree, and now 
the judge's name was called out by a voice 
that was as thin and elfin as though the 

[1401 



UP CLAY STREET 



throat that spoke it were strung with fine 
silver wires. 

"Oh, judge — oh, Mister Judge Priest!" 

The judge stopped, and, putting his hands 
on the pahngs, looked across them at the little 
sick boy. He saw a face that seemed to be all 
eyes and mouth and bulging, blue- veined fore- 
head — he was shockingly reminded of a new- 
hatched sparrow — and the big eyes were 
feverishly alight with the look that is seen only 
in the eyes of those who already have begun 
to glimpse the great secret that Hes beyond the 
ken of the rest of us. 

"Why, hello, little feller," said the judge, 
with a false heartiness. "I'm sorry to see you 
laid up again." 

*' Judge Priest, sir," said the sick boy, 
panting, with weak eagerness, "I want to see 
the grand free street parade. I've been sick 
a right smart while, and I can't go to the circus; 
but I do want mightily to see the grand free 
street parade. And I want you, please, sir, 
to have 'em come up by this house." 

There was a world of confidence in the plea. 
Unnoticed by the boy, his mother, who had 
been fanning him, dropped the fan and put 
her apron over her face and leaned against the 
window-jamb, sobbing silently. The father, 
silent too, leaned against tjie fence, looking 
fixedly at nothing and wiping his eyes with the 
butt of his hand. Yes, it is possible for a man 
to wipe his eyes on his bare hand without 

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seeming either grotesque or vulgar — even 
when the man who does it is a little inconse- 
quential man — if his child is dying and his 
sight is blurred and his heart is fit to burst 
inside of him. The judge bent across the 
fence, and his face muscles were working but 
his voice held steady. 

"Well, now, Lemmy," he said, "I'd like to 
do it for you the best in the world; but, you 
see, boy, I don't own this here circus — I don't 
even know the gentleman that does own it." 

"His name is Silver," supplied the sick 
child — "Daniel P. Silver, owner of Silver's 
Mammoth United Raihoad Shows, Roman 
Hippodrome and Noah's Ark Menagerie — 
that's the man! I kin show you his picture 
on one of the showbills my paw brought home 
to me, and then you kin go right and find him." 

"I'm afraid it wouldn't do much good if I 
did know him, Lemmy," said the old judge 
very gently. "You see — " 

"But ain't you the judge at the big cote- 
house?" demanded the child; "and can't you 
put people in jail if they don't do what 
you tell 'em.^ That's what my grandpop 
says. He's always tellin' me stories about 
how you and him fought the Yankees, and he 
always votes for you too — my grandpop talks 
like he thought you could do anything. And, 
judge, please, sir, if you went to Mister Daniel 
P. Silver and told him that you was the big 
judge — and told him there was a httle sick 

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boy livin' right up the road a piece in a little 
brown house — don't you reckin he'd do it? 
It ain't so very far out of the way if they go 
down Jefferson Street — it's only a little ways 
Judge, you'll make 'em do it, won't you — for 
mer 

"I'll try, boy, I'll shorely try to do what I 
can," said the old judge; "but if I can't make 
'em do it you won't be disappointed, will you, 
Lemmy ? " He fumbled in his pocket. " Here's 
four bits for you — you tell your daddy to 
buy you something with it. I know your maw 
and daddy wouldn't want you to take money 
from strangers, but of course it's different with 
old friends like you and me. Here, you take 
it. And there's something else," he went on. 
"I'll bet you there's one of those dagoes or 
somebody like that downtown wdth a lot of 
these here big toy rubber balloons — red and 
green and blue. You tell me which color you 
like the best and I'll see that it's sent right up 
here to you — the biggest balloon the man's 
got-" 

"I don't want any balloon," said the little 
voice fretfully, "and I don't want any four 
bits. I want to see the grand free street parade, 
and the herd of elephants, and the clown, and 
the man-eatin' tigers, and everything. I want 
that parade to come by this house." 

The judge looked hopelessly from the child 
to the mother and then to the father — they 
both had their faces averted still — and back 



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into the sick child's face again. The four-bit 
piece lay shining on the porch floor where it had 
fallen. The judge backed away, searching his 
mind for the right words to say. 

"Well, I'll do what I can, Lemmy," he 
repeated, as though he could find no other ^ 
phrase — "I'll do what I can." 

The child rolled his head back against the 
pillow, satisfied. "Then it'll be all right, sir," 
he said with a joyful confidence. "My grand- 
pop he said you could do 'most anything. 
You tell 'em. Mister Judge Priest, that I'll 
be a-waitin' right here in this very window for 
'em when they pass." 

''Walking with his head down and his steps 
lagging, the old judge, turning into the main 
thoroughfare, was almost run over by a mare 
that came briskly along, drawing a fight buggy 
with a tall man in it. The tall man pufied up 
the mare just in time. His name was Settle. 

"By gum, judge," he said apologetically, 
"I came mighty near gettin' you that time!" 

" Hello, son," said the judge absently ; " which 
way are you headed?" 

"Downtown, same as everybody else," said 
Settle. "Jump in and I'll take you right down, 
sir." 

"Much obfiged," assented the old judge, as 
he heaved himself heavily up between the 
skewed wheels and settled himself so sofidly 
at Settle's left that the seat springs whined; 
"but I wish't, if you're not in too big a hurry, 

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UP CLAY STREET 



that you'd drive me up by them showgrounds 
first." 

"Glad to," said Settle, as he swung the mare 
round. "I just come from there myself — 
been up lookin' at the stock. 'Tain't much. 
Goin' up to look their stock over yourself, 
judge .^" he asked, taking it for granted that 
any man would naturally be interested in horse- 
flesh, as indeed would be a true guess so far 
as any man in that community was concerned. 

"Stock.f^" said the judge. "No, I want to 
see the proprietor of this here show. I won't 
keep you waitin' but a minute or two." 

"The proprietor!" echoed Settle, surprised. 
"What's a circuit judge goin' to see a circus 
man for — is it something about their Kcense?" 

"No," said the judge — "no, just some 
business — a Httle private business matter I 
want to see him on." 

He offered no further explanation and Settle 
a^ked for none. At the grounds the smaller 
tents were all up — there was quite a Httle 
dirty- white encampment of them — and just 
as they drove up the roof of the main tent rose 
to the tops of its center poles, bellying and 
billowing lilce a stage sea in the second act of 
Monte Cristo. Along the near edge of the 
common, negro men were rigging booths with 
planks for counters and sheets for awnings, 
and negro women were unpacking the wares 
that would presently be spread forth temptingly 
against the coming of the show crowds — fried 

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chicken and slabs of fried fish, and ham and 
pies and fried apple turnovers. Leaving Settle 
checking the restive mare, the old judge made 
his way across the sod, already scuffed and 
dented by countless feet. A collarless, red- 
faced man, plainly a functionary of some sort, 
hurried toward him, and the judge put himself 
in this man's path. 

"Are you connected with this institution, 
suh?" he asked. 

"Yes," said the man shortly, but slowing 
his gait. 

"So I judged from your manner and deport- 
ment, suh," said the judge. "I'm lookin'," 
he went on, "for your proprietor." 

"Silver? He's over yonder by the cook- 
house." 

"The which?" asked the judge. 

"The cookhouse — the dining tent," ex- 
plained the other, pointing. "Right round 
yonder beyond that second stake wagon — 
where you see smoke rising. But he's likely 
to be pretty busy." 

Behind the second stake wagon the judge 
found a blocky, authoritative man, with a 
brown derby hat tilted back on his head and 
heavy-lidded eyes like a frog's, and knew him 
at once for the owner; but one look at the 
face made the judge hesitate. He felt that 
his was a lost cause already; and then the 
other opened his mouth and spoke, and Judge 
Priest turned on his heel and came away. The 

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judge was reasonably well seasoned to sounds of 
ordinary profanity, but not to blasphemy that 
seemed to loose an evil black smudge upon the 
clean air. He came back to the buggy and 
climbed in. 

" See your man ? " asked Settle. 
"Yes," said the judge slowly, "I saw him.'* 
Especially downtown things had a holidaying 
look to them. Wall-eyed teams of country 
horses were tethered to hitching-racks in the 
short by-streets, flinching their flanks and 
setting themselves for abortive stampedes later 
on. Pedlers of toy balloons circulated; a 
vender with a fascinating line of patter sold 
to the same customers, in rapid succession, 
odorous hamburger and flat slabs of a heat- 
resisting variety of striped ice cream. At a 
main crossing, catercornered across from each 
other, the highpitch man and his brother of 
the flat joint were at work, one selling electric 
belts from the back of a buggy, the other down 
in the dust manipulating a spindle game. The 
same group of shillabers were constantly circu- 
lating from one faker to the other, and as 
constantly investing. Even the clerks couldn't 
stay inside the stores — they kept darting out 
and darting back in again. A group of darkies 
would find a desirable point of observation 
along the sidewalk and hold it for a minute or 
two, and then on a sudden unaccountable 
impulse would desert it and go streaking off 
down the middle of the street to find another 



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that was in no way better. In front of the 
wagon yard country rigs were parked three 
deep. Every small boy who wasn't at the 
showground was swarming round underfoot 
somewhere, filled with a most delicious nervous- 
ness that kept him moving. But Judge Priest, 
who would have joyed in these things ordinarily, 
had an absent eye for it all. There was another 
picture persisting in his mind, a picture with a 
little brown house and a ragged catalpa tree 
for a background. 

In front of Soule's drug store his weekday 
cronies sat — the elder statesmen of the town — 
tilted back in hard-bottomed chairs, with their 
legs drawn up under them out of the tides of 
foot travel. But he passed them by, only 
nodding an answer to their choraled greeting, 
and went inside back behind the prescription 
case and sat down there alone, smoking his 
pipe soberly. 

"Wonder what ails Judge Priest?" said 
Sergeant Jimmy Bagby. "He looks sort of 
dauncy and low in his mind, don't he?" 

"He certainly does," some one agreed. 

Half an hour later, when the sheriff came in 
looking for him. Judge Priest was still sitting 
alone behind the prescription case. With the 
sheriff was a middle-aged man, a stranger, in 
a wrinkled check suit and a somewhat soiled 
fancy vest. An upper pocket of this vest was 
bulged outward by such frank articles of per- 
sonal use as a red celluloid toothbrush, carried 



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UP CLAY STREET 



bristle-end up, a rubber mustache-comb and a 
carpenter's flat pencil. The stranger had a 
longish mustache, iron-gray at the roots and 
of a greenish, blue-black color elsewhere, and 
he walked -^dth a perceptible limp. He had 
a way, it at once developed, of taking his comb 
out and running it through his mustache while 
in conversation, doing so without seeming to 
affect the flow or the volume of his language. 

**Mornin', Judge Priest," said the sheriff. 
**This here gentleman wants to see you a 
minute about gittin' out an attachment. I 
taken him first to the county judge's office, but 
it seems like Judge Landis went up to Louisville 
last night, and the magistrates' offices air 
closed — both of them, in fact; and so seein' 
as this gentleman is in a kind of a hurry, I 
taken the liberty of bringin' him round to you." 

Before the judge could open his mouth, he 
of the dyed mustache was breaking in. 

"Yes, sirree," he began briskly. "If you're 
the judge here I want an attachment. I've 
got a good claim against Dan Silver, and blame 
me if I don't push it. I'll fix him — red- 
lighting me off my own privilege car!" He 
puffed up with rage and injury. 

"What appears to be the main trouble?" 
asked the judge, studying this belligerent one 
from under his hatbrim. 

"Well, it's simple enough," explained the 
man. "Stanton is my name — here's my 
card — and I'm the fixer for this show — the 



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legal adjuster, see? Or, anyhow, I was until 
last night. And I likewise am — or was — 
haK partner with Dan Silver in the privilege 
car and in the speculative interests of this show 
— the flat joints and the rackets and all. You 
make me now, I guess? Well, last night, 
coming up here from the last stand, me and 
Silver fell out over the split-up, over dividing 
the day's profits — you understand, the money 
is cut up two ways every night — and I ketched 
him trying to trim me. I called him down 
good and hard then, and blame if he didn't 
have the nerve to call in that big boss razor- 
back of his, named Saginaw, and a couple more 
rousters, and red-Hght me right off my own 
privilege car! Now what do you know about 
that?" 

"Only what you tell me," replied Judge 
Priest calmly. "IMight I ask you what is the 
process of red-lightin' a person of your calHn' 

in life?" 

"Chucking you off of a train without waiting 
for the train to stop, that's what," expounded 
the aggrieved IVIr. Stanton. "It was pretty 
soft for me that I lit on the side of a dirt bank 
and we wasn't moving very fast, else I'd a been 
killed. As 'twas I about ruined a suit of clothes 
and scraped most of the meat off of one leg." 
He indicated the denuded limb by raising it 
stiffly a couple of times and then felt for his 
comb. Use of it appeared to have a somewhat 
soothing effect upon his feelings, and he con- 

[150] 



UP CLAY STREET 

tinued: "So I limped up to the next station, 
two of the longest miles in the world, and 
caught a freight coming through, and here 
I am. And now I want to file against him — 
the dirty, red -lighting dog! 

"Why, he owes me money — plenty of it. 
Just like I told you, I'm the half owner of that 
privilege car, and besides he borrowed money 
off of me at the beginning of the season and 
never offered to pay it back. I've got his 
personal notes right here to prove it." He 
felt for the documents and spread them, soiled 
and thumbed, upon the prescription shelf under 
the judge's nose. "He's sure got to settle 
with me before he gets out of this town. Don't 
worry about me — I'll put up cash bond to 
prove I'm on the level," fishing out from his 
trousers pocket a bundle of bills with a rubber 
band on it. "Pretty lucky for me they didn't 
know I had my bankroll with me last night!" 

"I suppose the attachment may issue," 
said the judge preparing to get up. 

"Fine," said Stanton, with deep gratifica- 
tion in his bearing. " But here, wait a minute," 
he warned. "Don't make no mistake and try 
to attach the whole works, because if you do 
you'll sure fall do^sn on your face, judge. 
That's all been provided for. The wagons 
and horses are all in Silver's name and the 
cage animals are all in his wife's name. And so 
when a hick constable or somebody comes 
round with an attachment, Dan says to him, 

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*A11 right,' he says, *go on and attach, but 
you can't touch them animals,' he says; and 
then friend wiie flashes a bill of sale to show 
they are hers. The rube says *What'll I do?' 
and Silver says, 'Why, let the animals out and 
take the wa^ns; but of course,' he says, 
* you 're responsible for the hons and that pair 
of ferocious man-eating tigers and the rest of 
'em. Go right ahead,' he says, *and help 
yourseK,' *Yes,' his wife says, 'go ahead; but 
if you let any of my wild animals get away I'll 
hold you liable, and also if you let any of 'em 
chew up anybody you'll pay the damages and 
not me,' she says. ' You'll have to be specially 
careful about Wallace the Ontamable,' she 
says; *he's et up two trainers already this 
season and crippled two-three more of the 
hands.' 

"Well, if that don't bluff the rube they take 
him round and give him a flash at Wallace. 
Wallace is old and feeble and he ain't really 
much more dangerous than a kitten, but he 
looks rough; and Dan sidles up 'longside the 
wagon and touches a button that's there to use 
during the ballyhoo, and then Wallace jumps 
up and down and roars a mile. D'ye make me 
there? Weil, the floor of the cage is all iron 
strips, and when Dan touches that button it 
shoots about fifty volts of the real juice — 
electricity, you know — into Wallace's feet 
and he acts ontamable. So of course that 
stumps the rube, and Dan like as not gets 



UP CLAY STREET 



away with it without ever settKng. Oh, it's 
a foxy trick! And to think it was me myself 
that first put Silver on to it ! " he added lament- 
ingly, mth a sidelong look at the sheriff to 
see how that official was taking the disclosure 
of these professional secrets. As well as one 
might judge by a glance the sheriff was taking 
it unmoved. He was cutting off a chew of 
tobacco from a black plug. Stowing the morsel 
in his jaw, he advanced an idea of his own: 

"How about attachin' the receipts in the 
ticket wagon.?" 

"I don't know about that either," said the 
sophisticated Stanton. "Dan Silver is one 
of the wisest guys in this business. He had to 
be a wise guy to slip one over on an old big- 
leaguer like yours truly, and that's no sidewalk 
banter either. You might attach the wagon 
and put a constable or somebody inside of it, 
and then like as not Dan 'd find some way to 
flimflam him and make his getaway with the 
kale intact. You gotter give it to Dan Silver 
there. I guess he's a stupid guy — yes, stupid 
hke a bear cat!" His tone of reluctant ad- 
miration indicated that this last was spoken 
satirically and that seriously he regarded a 
bear cat as probably the astutest hybrid of all 
species. 

"Are all circuses conducted in this general 
fashion, suh?" inquired the old judge softly. 

"No," admitted Stanton, "they ain't — • 
the big ones ain't anyway; but a lot of the 

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small ones is. They gotter do it because a cir-^ 
cus is always fair game for a sore rube. Once 
the tents come down a circus has got no friends. 

**I tell you what," he went on, struck amid- 
ships with a happy notion — "I tell you what 
you do. Lemme swear out an attachment 
against the band wagon and the band-wagon 
team, and you go serve it right away, sheriff. 
That'll fix him, I guess." 

"How so?" put in the judge, still seeking 
information for his own enlightenment. 

"Why, you see, if you tie up that band 
wagon Dan Silver can't use it for parading. 
He ain't got but just the one, and a circus 
parade without a band wagon vdW look pretty 
sick, I should say. It'll look more like some- 
thing else, a funeral, for example." The 
pleased grafter grinned maliciously. 

"It's like this — the band wagon is the key 
to the whole works," he went on. "It's the 
first thing off the lot when the parade starts — 
the band-wagon driver is the only one that has 
the route. You cut the band wagon out and 
you've just naturally got that parade snarled 
up to hell and gone." 

Judge Priest got upon his feet and advanced 
upon the exultant stranger. He seemed more 
interested than at any time. 

"Suh," he asked, "let me see if I understand 
you properly. The band wagon is the guidin' 
motive, as it were, of the entire parade — is 
that right?" 

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UP CLAY STREET 



" You've got it," Stanton assured him. " Even 
the stock is trained to follow the band wagon. 
They steer by the music up ahead. Cop the 
band wagon out and the rest of 'em won't 
know which way to go — that's the rule where- 
ever there's a road show traveling." 

"Ah hah," said the judge reflectively, "I see." 

"But say, look here, judge," said Stanton. 
"Begging your pardon and not trying to rush 
you nor nothing, but if you're going to attach 
that band wagon of Dan Silver's for me you 
gotter hurry. That parade is due to leave the 
lot in less'n half an hour from now." 

He was gratified to note that his warning 
appeared to grease the joints in the old judge's 
legs. They all three went straightway to 
the sheriff's office, which chanced to be only 
two doors away, and there the preliminaries 
necessary to legal seizures touching on a certain 
described and specified parade chariot, tableau 
car or band wagon were speedily completed. 
Stanton made oath to divers allegations and 
departed, assiduously combing himself and 
gloating openly over the anticipated discom- 
fiture of his late partner. The sheriff lingered 
behind only a minute or two longer while 
Judge Priest in the privacy of a back room 
impressed upon him his instructions. Then 
he, too, departed, moving at his top walking 
gait westward out Jefferson Street. There 
was this that could be said for Sheriff Giles 
Birdsong — he was not gifted in conversatioxi 

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nor was he of a quick order of intellect, but he 
knew his duty and he obeyed orders literally 
when conveyed to him by a superior official. 
On occasion he had obeyed them so literally — 
where the warrant had said dead or alive, for 
example — that he brought in, feet first, a 
prisoner or so who manifested a spirited reluc- 
tance against being brought in any other way. 
And the instructions he had now were highly 
expHcit on a certain head. 

Close on Sheriff Birdsong's hurrying heels 
the judge himself issued forth from the sheriff's 
office. Hailing a slowly ambling public vehicle 
driven by a languid darky, he deposited his 
person therein and was driven away. Observ- 
ing this from his place in front of the drug store. 
Sergeant Jimmy Bagby was moved to remark 
generally to the company: "You can't tell 
me I wasn't right a while ago about [Judge 
Billy Priest. Look at him yonder now, puttin' 
out for home in a hack, without waitin' for 
the parade. There certainly is something wrong 
with the judge and you can't tell me there 
ain't." 

If the judge didn't wait nearly everybody 
else did — waited with what patience and 
impatience they might through a period that 
was punctuated by a dozen false alarms, each 
marked with much craning of elderly necks 
and abortive rushes by younger enthusiasts 
to the middle of the street. After a while^ 
ihough, from away up at the head of Jefferson 

1156] 



UP CLAY STREET 



Street there came down, borne along on the 
summer air, a faint anticipatory blare of brazen 
horns, heard at first only in broken snatches. 
Then, in a minute or two, the blaring resolved 
itself into a connected effort at melody, with 
drums throbbing away in it. Farmers grabbed 
at the bits of restive horses, that had their 
ears set sharply in one direction, and began 
uttering soothing and admonitory "whoas." 
The stores erupted clerks and customers to- 
gether. The av/ning poles on both sides of 
the street assumed the appearance of burdened 
grape trelhses, bearing ripe black and white 
clusters of small boys. At last she was coming! 

She was, for a fact. She came on until the 
thin runlet of ostensible music became a fan- 
faring, crashing cataract of pleasing and exhila- 
rating sound, until through the dancing dust 
could be made out the arching, upcurved front 
of a splendid red-and-gold chariot. In front 
of it, like wallowing waves before the prow of 
a Viking ship, were the weaving broad backs 
of many white horses, and stretching behind 
it was a sinuous, colorful mass crowned with 
dancing, distant banner-things, and suggesting 
in glintings of gold and splashings of flame an 
oncoming argos}^ of glitter and gorgeousness. 

She was coming all right! But was she? 
A sort of disappointed, surprised gasp passed 
along the crowded sidewalks, and boys began 
shding down the awning poles and running like 
mad up the street. For instead of continuinsE 



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straight on down Jefferson, as all circus parades 
had always done, the head of this one was seen 
now, after a momentary halt as of indecision, 
to turn short off and head into Clay. But 
why Clay Street — that was the question? 
Clay Street didn't have ten houses on it, all 
told, and it ran up a steep hill and ended in 
an abandoned orchard just beyond the old 
Priest place. Indeed the only way to get out 
of Clay Street, once you got into it, was by a 
distant lane that cut through to the parallelmg 
street on the right. What would any circus 
parade in possession of its sane senses be doing 
going up Clay Street .^^ 

But that indeed was exactly what this 
parade was doing — with the added phenomena 
of Sheriff Giles Birdsong sitting vigilantly 
erect on the front seat of the band wagon, and 
a band-wagon driver taking orders for once 
from somebody besides his rightful boss — ■ 
taking them protestmgly and profanely, but 
nevertheless taking them. 

Yes, sir, that's what she was doing. The 
band wagon, behind the oblique arc of its 
ten-horse team, was swinging into Clay Street, 
and the rest of the procession was following its 
leader and disappearing, wormlike, into a 
tunnel of overarching maples and silver-leaf 
poplars. ' 

And so it moved, slowly and deliberately, 
after the fashion of circus parades, past some 
sparsely scattered cottages that were mainly 

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UP CLAY STREET 



closed and empty, seeing that their customary 
dwellers were even now downtown, until the 
head of it came to a particularly shabby little 
brown house that was not closed and was not 
empty. From a window here looked out a 
worn little woman and a little sick boy, he as 
pale as the pillow against which he was propped, 
and from here they saw it all — she through 
tears and he with eyes that burned with a 
dumb joy unutterable — from here these twe 
beheld the unbelievable marvel of it. It was 
almost as though the whole unspeakable gran- 
deur of it had been devised for those eyes alone 

— first the great grand frigate of a band 
wagon pitching and rolling as if in heavy seas, 
with artistes of a world-wide repute discoursing 
sweet strains from its decks, and drawn not 
by four or six, but by ten snow-white Arabian 
stallions with red pompons nodding above their 
proud heads — that is to say, they were snow- 
white except perhaps for a slight grayish dap- 
pKng. And on behind this, tailing away and 
away, were knights and ladies on mettled, 
gayly caparisoned steeds, and golden pageant 
dens filled Tv^th ferocious rare beasts of the 
jungle, hungrily surveying the surging crowds 

— only, of course, there weren't any crowds — 
and sun -bright tableau cars, with crystal 
mirrors cunningly inset in th^ scrolled carved 
work, so that the dancing surfaces caught the 
sunlight and threw it back into ej^es already 
joyously dazzled; and sundry closed cages 

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with beautiful historical paintings on tlieir 
sides, suggesting by their very secrecy the 
presence of marvelous prisoned creatures; and 
yet another golden chariot with the Queen of 
Sheba and her whole glittering court traveling 
in imperial pomp atop of it. 

That wasn't all — by no means was it all. 
There succeeded an open den containing the 
man-eating Bengal tigers, striped and lank, 
with the intrepid spangled shoulders of the 
trainer showing as he sat with his back against 
the bars, holding his terrible charges in domin- 
ion by the power of the human ^eye, so that for 
the time being they dared not eat anybody. 
And then followed a whole drove of trick 
ponies drawing the happy family in its wheeled 
home, and behind that in turn more cages, 
closed, and a fife-and-drum corps of old regi- 
mentals in blue and buff, playing Yankee 
Doodle with martial spirit, and next the Asiatic 
camel to be known by his one hump, and the 
genuine Bactrian dromedary to be known by 
his two, slouching by as though they didn't 
care whether school kept or not, flirting their 
under lips up and down and showing profiles 
like Old Testament characters. And then 
came more knights and ladies and more horses 
and more heroes of history and romance, and 
A veritable herd of vast and pondrous pachy- 
derm performers, or elephants — for while 
one pachyderm, however vast and pachydermic, 
might not make a herd, perhaps, or even two, 

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UP CLAY STREET 



yet surely three would, and here were no less 
than three, holding one another's tails with 
their trunks, which was a droll conceit thought 
up by these intelligent creatures on the spur 
of the moment, no doubt, with the sole idea 
of giving added pleasure to a little sick boy. 

That wasn't all either. There was more of 
this unappToachable pageant yet wmding by — 
including such wonders as the glass-walled 
apartment of the lady snake-charmer, with 
the lady snake-charmer sitting right there ui 
imminent peril of her life amidst her loathsome, 
coiHng and venomous pets; and also there was 
Judge Priest's Jeff, hardly to be recognized 
in a red-and-yellow livery as he led the far- 
famed sacred ox of India; and then the funny 
old clown in his little blue wagon, shouting out 
*'Whoa, January" to his mule and dodging 
back as January kicked up right in his face, 
and last of all — a crowning glory to all these 
other glories — the steam calliope, whistling 
and blasting and shrilling and steaming, fit 
to split itself wide open ! 

You and I, reader, looking on at this with 
gaze unglamoured by the eternal, fleeting spirit 
of youth, might have noted in the carping light 
of higher criticism that the oriental trappings 
had been but poor shoddy stuffs to begin with, 
and were now all torn and diiigy and shedding 
their tarnished spangles; might have noted 
that the man-eating tigers seemed strangely 
bored with life, and that the venomous serpents 

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draped upon the form of the lady snake-charmer 
were languid, not to say torpid, to a degree 
that gave the lady snake-charmer the appear- 
ance rather of a female suspender pedler, carry- 
ing her wares hung over her shoulders. We 
might have observed further had we been so 
minded — as probably we should — that the 
Queen of Sheba bore somewhat a weather- 
beaten look and held a quite common-appearing 
cotton umbrella with a bone handle over her 
regal head; that the East-Indian mahout of 
the elephant herd needed a shave, and that 
there were mud-stained overalls and brogan 
shoes showing plainly beneath the flowing 
robes of the Arabian camel-driver. We might 
even have guessed that the biggest tableau car 
was no more than a ticket wagon in thin disguise, 
and that the yapping which proceeded from the 
largest closed cage indicated the presence merely 
of a troupe of uneasy performing poodles. 

But to the transported vision of the little 
sick boy in the little brown house there were 
no flaws in it anywhere — it was all too splendid 
for words, and so he spoke no words at all as it 
wound on by. The lurching shoulders of the 
elephants had gone over the hill beyond and 
on down, the sacred ox of India had passed 
ambling from sight, the glass establishment of 
the snake-charmer was passing, and January and 
the clown wagon and the steam calliope were 
right in front of the Hammersmith house, when 
something happened on ahead, and for a half 

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UP CLAY STREET 

minute or so there was a slowing-up and a 
closing-up and a halting of everything. 

Although, of course, the rear guard didn't 
know it for the time being, the halt was occa- 
sioned by the fact that when the band wagon 
reached the far end of Clay Street, with the 
orchard trees looming dead ahead, the sheriff, 
riding on the front seat of the band wagon, 
gave an order. The band-wagon driver instantly 
took up the slack of the reins that flowed 
through his fingers in layers, so that they 
stopped right in front of Judge Priest's house, 
where Judge Priest stood leaning on his gate. 
The sheriff made a sort of saluting motion of 
his fingers against the brim of his black slouch 
hat. 

"Accordin' to orders. Your Honor," he 
stated from his lofty perch. 

At this there spoke up another man, the 
third and furthermost upon the wide seat 
of the band wagon, and this third man was 
no less a personage than Daniel P. Silver 
himself, and he was as near to bursting with 
bottled rage as any man could well be and still 
remain whole, and he was as hoarse as a frog 
from futile swearing. 

"What in thunder does this mean — " he 
began, and then stopped short, being daunted 
by the face which Sheriff Giles. Birdsong turned 
upon him. 

"Look here, mister," counseled the sheriff, 
**you air now in the presence of the presidin' 

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judge of the first judicial district of Kintucky, 
settin' in chambers, or what amounts to the 
same thing, and you air liable to git yourself 
into contempt of cote any minute." 

Baffled, Silver started to swear again, but 
in a lower key. 

**You better shut up your mouth," said the 
sheriff with a shifting forward of his body to 
free his limbs for action, "and Hsten to whut 
His Honor has to say. You act like you was 
actually anxious to git yourseK lamed up." 

*' Sheriff," said the judge, "obeyin' your 
orders you have, I observe, attached certain 
properties — to wit, a band wagon and team 
of horses — and still obeyin* orders, have pro- 
duced said articles before me for my inspection. 
You will continue in personal possession of 
same until said attachment is adjudicated, not 
allowin' any person whatsoever to remove them 
from your custody. Do I make myself suffi- 
ciently plain?" 

"Yes, suh. Your Honor," said the sheriff. 
"You do." 

"In the meanwhile, pendin' the termina- 
tion of the Htigation, if the recent possessor 
of this property desires to use it for exhibition 
or paradin' purposes, you will permit him to do 
so, always within proper bounds," went on 
the judge. "I would suggest that you could 
cut through that lane yonder in order to reach 
the business section of our city, if such should 
be the desire of the recent possessor." 

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UP CLAY STREET 



The heavy wheels of the band wagon began 
turning; the parade started moving on again. 
But in that precious half-minute's halt some- 
thing else had happened, only this happened 
in front of the little brown house halfway down 
Clay Street. The clown's gaze was roving 
this way and that, as if looking for the crowd 
that should have been there and that was only 
just beginning to appear, breathless and pant- 
ing, and his eyes fell upon a wasted, wizened 
little face looking straight out at him from a 
nest of bedclothes in a window not thirty feet 
away; and — be it remembered among that 
clown's good deeds in the hereafter — he 
stood up and bowed, and stretched his painted, 
powdered face in a wide and gorgeous grin, 
just as another and a greater Grimaldi once 
did for just such another audience of a grieving 
mother and a dying child. Then he yelled 
"Whoa, January," three separate times, and 
each time he poked January in his long-suffer- 
ing flanks and each time January kicked up his 
small quick hoofs right alongside the clown's 
floury ears. 

The steam calliope man had an inspiration 
too. He was a person of no great refinement, 
the calliope man, and he worked a shell game 
for his main source of income and lived rough 
and lived hard, so it may not have been an 
inspiration after all, but merely the happy 
accident of chance. But whether it was or it 
wasn't, he suddenly and without seeming 



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reason switched from the tune he was playing 
and made his calliope sound out the first bars 
of the music which somebody once set to the 
sweetest childhood verses that Eugene Field 
ever wrote — the verses that begin : 

The little toy dog is covered with dust. 
But sturdy and stanch he stands; 

And the little toy soldier is red vnth rusty 
And his micsket molds in his hands. 

The parade resumed its march then and went 
on, tailing away through the dappled sunshine 
under the trees, and up over the hill and down 
the other side of it, but the clown looked back 
as he scalped the crest and waved one arm, in 
a baggy calico sleeve, with a sort of friendly 
goodby motion to somebody behind him; and 
as for the steam calHope man, he kept on play- 
ing the Little Boy Blue verses until he dis- 
appeared. 

As a matter of fact, he was still playing 
them when he passed a wide-porched old white 
house almost at the end of the empty street, 
where a stout old man in a wrinkly white 
linen suit leaned across a gate and regarded 
the steam calliope man v/ith a satisfied, almost 
a proprietorial air. 



[166] 



..i.v:. 




VI 

WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS 
GOOD 



ISTER SHERIFF," ordered the 
judge, "bring Pressley G. Harper 
to the bar." 
Judge Priest, as I may have set 
forth before, had two habits of speech — one 
purposely ungrammatical and thickly larded 
with the vernacular of the country crossroads 
— that was for his private walks and conver- 
sations, and for his campaignings; but the 
other was of good and proper and dignified 
English, and it he reserved for official acts and 
utterances. Whether upon the bench or off 
it, though, his voice had that high-pitched, 
fiddle-string note which carried far and clearly; 
and on this day, when he spoke, the sheriff 
roused up instantly from where he had been 
enjoying forty winks between the bewhittled 
arms of a tilted chair and bestirred himseff. 
He hurried out of a side door. A little, 

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whispering, hunching stir went through the 
courtroom. Spectators reclining upon the 
benches, partly on their spines and partly on 
their shoulderblades, straightened and bent 
forward. Inside the rail, which set apart the 
legal goats from the civic sheep, a score of eyes 
were fixed speculatively upon the judge's face, 
rising above the top of the tall, scarred desk 
where he sat; but his face gave no clew to his 
thoughts; and if the mind back of the benefi- 
cent, mild blue eyes was troubled, the eyes 
themselves looked out unvexed through the 
steel-bowed spectacles that rode low on the 
old judge's nose. 

There was a minute's wait. The clerk 
handed up to the judge a sheaf of papers in 
blue wrappers. The judge shuffled through 
them until he found the one he wanted. It 
was the middle of the afternoon of a luscious 
spring day — the last day of the spring term 
of court. In at the open windows came spicy, 
moist smells of things sprouting and growing, 
and down across the courthouse square the 
big star-shaped flowers of the dogwood trees 
showed white and misty, like a new IVIilky 
Way against a billowy green firmament. 

A minute only and then the sheriff reentered. 
At his side came a man. This newcomer must 
have been close to seventy years — or sixty- 
five, anyway. He was long and lean, and he 
bore his height with a sort of alert and supple 
crectness, stepping high, with the seemingly 

[168] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

awkward gait of the man trained at crossing 
furrows, yet bringing his feet down noiselessly, 
like a house-cat treading on dead leaves. The 
way he moved made you think of a deerstalker. 
Strength, tremendous strength, was shown in 
the outward swing of the long arms and the 
huge, knotty hands, and there was temper in 
the hot, brown eyes and in the thick, stiff crop 
of reddish-gray hair, rising like buckwheat 
stubble upon his scalp. He had high cheek- 
bones and a long, shaven face, and his skin was 
tanned to a leathery red, like a well-smoked 
ham. Except for the colors of his hair and 
eyes, he might have passed for half Indian. 
Indeed, there was a tale in the county that his 
great-grandmother was a Shawnee squaw. He 
was more than six feet tall — he must have been 
six feet two. 

With the sheriff alongside him he came to the 
bar — a sagged oaken railing — and stood 
there with his big hands cupped over it. He 
was newly shaved and dressed in what was 
evidently his best. 

"Pressley G. Harper at the bar," sang out 
the clerk methodically. Everybody was listen- 
ing. 

"Pressley G. Harper," said the judge, "waiv- 
ing the benefit of counsel and the right of trial 
by jury, you have this day pleaded guilty to an 
indictment charging you with felonious assault 
in that you did, on the twenty-first day of 
January last, shoot and wound with a firearm 

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one Virgil Settle, a citizen of this county. Have 
you anything to say why the sentence of the 
law should not be pronoimced upon you?" 

Only eying him steadfastly, the confessed 
offender shook his head. 

"It is the judgment of this court, then, that 
you be confined in the state penitentiary for the 
period of two years at hard labor." 

A babbling murmur ran over the room — 
for his sins old Press Harper was catching it at 
last. The prisoner's hands gripped the oaken 
rail until his knuckles and nails showed white, 
and it seemed that the tough wood fibers would 
be dented in; other than that he gave no sign, 
but took the blow braced and steady, like a 
game man facing a firing squad. The sheriff 
inched toward him; but the judge raised the 
hand that held the blue-WTappered paper as a 
sign that he had more to say. 

"Pressley G. Harper," said the judge, "prob- 
ably this is not the time or the place for the 
court to say how deeply it regrets the necessity 
of inflicting this punishment upon you. This 
court has known you for many years — for a 
great many years. You might have been a 
worthy citizen. You have been of good repute 
for truthfulness and fair dealing among your 
neighbors; but you have been beset, all your, 
life, with a temper that was your abiding curse, 
and when excited with liquor you have been a 
menace to the safety of your fellowman. Time 
and time again, within the recollection of this 

1170] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

court, you have been involved in unseemly 
brawls, largely of your own making. That you 
were generally inflamed with drink, and that 
you afterward seemed genuinely penitent and 
made what amends you could, does not serve 
to excuse you in the eyes of the law. That you 
have never taken a human life outright is a 
happy accident of chance. 

"Through the leniency of those appointed to 
administer the law you have until now escaped 
the proper and fitting consequences of your 
behavior; but, by this last wanton attack upon 
an inoffensive citizen, you have forfeited all 
claim upon the consideration of the designated 
authorities." 

He paused for a little, fumbling at the bow 
of his spectacles. 

" In the natural course of human events you 
have probably but a few more years to live. 
It is to be regretted by all right-thinking men 
that you cannot go to your grave free from the 
stigma of a prison. And it is a blessing that 
you have no one closely related to you by ties 
of blood or marriage to share in your disgrace." 
The old judge's high voice grew husked and 
roughened here, he being himself both widowed 
and childless. "The judgment of the court 
stands — two years at hard labor." 

He made a sign that he - was done. The 
sheriff edged up again and touched the sentenced 
man upon the arm. Without turning his 
head. Harper shook off the hand of authority 

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with SO violent a shrug that the sheriff dodged 
back, startled. Then for the first time the 
prisoner spoke. 

"Judge, Your Honor," he said quietlyj 
**jest a minute ago you asked me if I had any- 
thing to say and I told you that I had not. I've 
changed my mind; I want to ask you some- 
thing — I want to ask you a mighty big favor. 
No, I ain't askin' you to let me off — it ain't 
that," he went on more quickly, reading the 
look on the judge's face. "I didn't expect to 
come clear in this here case. I pleaded guilty 
because I was guilty and didn't have no defense. 
My bein' sorry for shootin' Virge Settle the 
way I did don't excuse me, as I know; but. 
Judge Priest, I'll say jest this to you — I don't 
want to be dragged off to that there penitentiary 
like a savage dumb beast. I don't want to be 
took there by no sheriff. And what I want to 
ask you is this : Can't I go there a free man, with 
free limbs? I promise you to go and to serve 
my time faithful — but I want to go by myself 
and give myseff up hke a man." 

Instantly visualized before the eyes of all who 
sat there was the picture which they knew must 
be in the prisoner's mind — the same picture 
which all or nearly all of them had seen more 
than once, since it came to pass, spring and 
fall, after each term of court — a little procession 
filing through the street to the depot; at its 
head, puffed out wdth responsibility, the sheriff 
and one of his deputies — at its tail more 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 
■ 

deputies, and in between them the string of 
newly convicted felons, handcuffed in twos, 
with a long trace-chain looping back from one 
pair to the next pair, and so on, binding all fast 
together in a clanking double file — the whites 
in front and the negroes back of them, main- 
taining even in that shameful formation the 
division of race; the whites mainly marching 
with downcast heads and hurrying feet, clutch- 
ing pitiably small bundles with their free hands 
— the negroes singing doggerel in chorus and 
defiantly jingling the links of their tether; 
some, the friendless ones, hatless and half 
naked, and barefooted after months of lying 
in jail — and all with the smell of the frowsy 
cells upon them. And, seeing this famihar 
picture spring up before them, it seemed all 
of a sudden a wrong thing and a very shameful 
thing that Press Harper, an old man and a 
member of a decent family, should march thus, 
with his wrists chained and the offscourings and 
scum of the county jail for company. All there 
knew him for a man of his word. If old Press 
Harper said he would go to the penitentiary 
and surrender himself they knew he would go 
and do it if he had to crawl there on his knees. 
And so now, having made his plea, he waited 
silently for the answer. 

The old judge had half swung himself about 
in his chair and with his hand at his beard was 
looking out of the window. 

"Mister Sheriff," he said, without turning 

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his head, "you may consider yourseK relieved 
of the custody of the defendant at the bar. 
Mister Clerk, you may make out the commit- 
ment papers." The clerk busied himseK with 
certain ruled forms, filling in dotted lines with 
writing. The judge went on: "Despite the 
irregularity of the proceeding, this court is 
disposed to grant the request wliich the defend- 
ant has just made. Grievous though his short- 
comings in other directions may have been, 
this court has never known the defendant to 
break his word. Does the defendant desire any 
time in which to arrange his personal affairs? 
If so how much time.^" 

"I would like to have until the day after 
tomorrow," said Harper. "If I kin I want to 
find a tenant for my farm." 

"Has the commonwealth's attorney any 
objection to the granting of this delay?" 
inquired the judge, still with his head turned 
away. 

"None, Your Honor," said the prosecutor, 
half rising. And now the judge was facing 
the prisoner, looking him full in the eye. 

"You will go free on your own recognizance, 
without bond, until the day after tomorrow," 
he bade him. "You will then report yourself 
to the warden of the state penitentiary at 
Frankfort. The clerk of this court will hand 
you certain documents which you will surrender 
to the warden at the same time that you sur- 
render yourself." 

[ml 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

The tall old man at the rail bowed his head 
to show he understood, but he gave no thanks 
for the favor vouchsafed him, nor did the other 
old man on the bench seem to expect any thanks. 
The clerk's pen, racing across the ruled sheets, 
squeaked audibly. 

"This consideration is granted, though, upon 
one condition," said the judge, as though a new 
thought had just come to him. "And that is, 
that between this time and the time you begin 
serving your sentence you do not allow a drop 
of liquor to cross your lips . You promise that ? ' ' 

"I promise that," said Harper slowly and 
soberly, like a man taking a solemn oath. 

No more was said. The clerk filled out the 
blanks — two of them — and Judge Priest 
signed them. Tlie clerk took them back from 
him, folded them inside a long envelope; backed 
the envelope with certain writings, and handed 
it over the bar rail to Harper. There wasn't a 
sound as he stowed it carefully into an inner 
pocket of his ill-fitting black coat; nor, except 
for the curiously light tread of his own steps, 
was there a sound as he, without a look side- 
wise, passed down the courtroom and out at 
the doorway. 

"Mister Clerk," bade Judge Priest, "adjourn 
the present term of this court." 

As the crowd filed noisily out, old Doctor 
Lake, who had been a spectator of all that 
happened, lingered behind and, with a nod and 
a gesture to the clerk, went round behind the 

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jury-box and entered the door of the judge's 
private chamber, without knocking. The lone 
occupant of the room stood by the low, open 
window, looking out over the green square. 
He was stuffing the fire-blackened bowl of 
his corncob pipe with its customary fuel; but 
his eyes were not on the task, or his fingers 
trembled — or something; for, though the 
pipe was already packed to overflowing, he 
still tamped more tobacco in, wasting the 
shreddy brown weed upon the floor. 

"Come in, Lew, and take a chair and set 
down," he said. Doctor Lake, however, in- 
stead of taking a chair and sitting down, crossed 
to the window and stood beside him, putting 
one hand on the judge's arm. 

"That was pretty hard on old Press, Billy," 
said Doctor Lake. 

Judge Priest was deeply sensitive of all out- 
side criticism pertaining to his official conduct; 
his life off the bench was another matter. He 
stiffened under the touch. 

"Lewis Lake," he said — sharply for him — 
" I don't permit even my best friends to discuss 
my judicial acts." 

"Oh, I didn't mean that, Billy," Doctor Lake 
made haste to explain. "I wasn't thinking so 
much of what happened just now in the court 
yonder. I reckon old Press deserved it — he's 
been running hog- wild round this town and this 
county too long aheady. Let him get that 
temper of his roused and a few drinks in him, 

[176 J 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

and he is a regular mad dog. Nobody can 
deny that. Of course I hate it — and I know 
you do too — to see one of the old company — 
one of the boys who marched out of here with 
us in '61 — going to the pen. That's only 
' natural; but I'm not finding fault with your 
sending him there. What I was thinking of is 
that you're sending him over the road day after 
tomorrow." 

"What of that?" asked the judge. 

"Why, day after tomorrow is the day we're 
starting for the annual reunion," said Doctor 
Lake; "and, Billy, if Press goes on the noon 
train — which he probably will — he'll be 
traveling right along with the rest of us — for a 
part of the way. Only he'll get off at the 
Junction, and we — well, we'll be going on 
through, the rest of us will, to the reunion* 
That's what I meant." 

"That's so!" said the judge regretfully — 
** that's so! I did forget all about the reunion 
startin' then — I plum' forgot it. I reckin it 
will be sort of awkward for all of us — and for 
Press in particular." He paused, holding the 
unlighted and overflowing pipe in his hands 
absently, and then went on: 

"Lewis, when a man holds an office such as 
mine is he has to do a lot of things he hates 
mightily to do. Now you take old Press 
Harper's case. I reckin there never was a 
braver soldier anywhere than Press was. Do 
you remember Price's Crossroads.'^" 

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"Yes," said the old doctor, his eyes suddenly 
afire. "Yes, Billy — and Vicksburg too." 

"Ah-hah!" went on the old judge — "and 
the second day's fight at Chickamauga, when 
we lost so many out of the regiment, and Press 
came back out of the last charge, draggin' little 
Gil Nicholas by the arms, and both of them 
purty nigh shot to pieces .^^ Yes, suh; Press 
always was a fighter when there was any fightin' 
to do — and the fightin' was specially good in 
them days. The trouble with Press was he 
didn't quit fightin' when the rest of us did. 
Maybe it sort of got into his blood. It does 
do jest that sometimes, I judge." 

"Yes," said Doctor Lake, "I suppose you're 
right; but old Press is in a fair way to be cured 
now. A man with his temper ought never to 
touch whisky anyhow." 

"You're right," agreed the judge. "It's 
a dangerous thing, Kcker is — and a curse to 
some people. I'd like to have a dram right 
this minute. Lew, I wish mightily you'd come 
on and go home with me tonight and take 
supper. I'll send my nigger boy Jeff up to 
your house to tell your folks you won't be 
there until late, and you walk on out to my 
place mth me. I feel sort of played out and 
lonesome — I do so. Come on now. We'll 
have a young chicken and a bait of hot waffles 
• — I reckin that old nigger cook of mine does 
make the best waffles in the created world. 
After supper we'll set a spell together and talk 

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WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

over them old times when we were in the army 
— and maybe we can kind of forget some of the 
things thatVe come up later." 

• ••••••• 

The noon accommodation would carry the 
delegation from Gideon K. Irons Camp over 
the branch line to the Junction, where it would 
connect with a special headed through fox 
the reunion city. For the private use of th& 
Camp the railroad company provided a car 
which the ladies of the town decorated on the 
night before with draped strips of red and white 
bunting down the sides, and little battle-flags 
nailed up over the two doors. The rush of 
the wind would soon whip away the little 
crossed flags from their tack fastenings end 
roll the bunting streamers up into the semblance 
of peppermint sticks; but the car, hitched to 
the tail end of the accommodation and sur- 
rounded by admiring groups of barelegged 
small boys, made a brave enough show when 
its intended passengers came marching down 
a good half hour ahead of leaving-time. 

Considering the vAde swath which death 
and the infirmities of age had been cutting in 
the ranks all these years, the Camp was sending 
a good representation — Judge Priest, the 
commandant; and Doctor Lake; and Major 
Joe Sam Covington; and Sergeant Jimmy 
Bagby, who never missed a reunion; and Cor- 
poral Jake Smedley, the color-bearer, with the 
Camp's flag furled on its staff and borne under 

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his arm; and Captain Shelby Woodward — 
and four or five more. There was even one 
avowed private. Also, and not to be over- 
looked on any account, there was Uncle Zach 
Matthews, an ink-black, wrinkled person, with 
a shiny bald head polished like old rosewood, 
and a pair of warped legs bent outward like 
saddlebows. Personally Uncle Zach was of 
an open mind regarding the merits and the 
outcome of the Big War. As he himself often 
put it : 

"Yas, suh — I ain't got no set prejudices 
ary way. In de spring of '61 I went out wid 
my own w'ite folks, as body-sarvant to my 
young marster, Cap'n Harry Matthews — 
and we suttinly did fight dem bluebellies up 
hill and down dale fer three endurin' years or 
more; but in de campaignin' round Nashville 
somewhars I got kind of disorganized and turn't 
round someway; and, when I sorter comes to 
myself, lo and behole, ef I ain't been captured 
by de Fed'rul army! So, rather 'n have any 
fussin' 'bout it, I j'ined in wid dem; and frum 
den on till de surrender I served on de other 
side — cookin' fer one of their gin 'els and doin' 
odd jobs round de camp; but when 'twas all 
over I come on back home and settled down 
ag'in 'mongst my own folks, where I properly 
belonged. Den, yere a few years back, some 
of 'em turn't in and done some testify in' fer 
me so's I could git my pension. Doctor Lake, 
he says to me hisse'f. he says; 'Zach, bein' 

[180] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

as de Yankee Gover'miiit is a passin' out dis 
yere money so free you might jess as well have 
a little chunk of it too ! ' And he — him and 
Mistah Charley Reed and some others, they 
helped me wid my papers; and, of course, I 
been mighty grateful to all dem genTmen ever 
since." 

So Uncle Zach drew his pension check 
quarterly, and regularly once a year went to 
the reunion as general factotum of the Camp, 
coming home laden with badges and heavy 
with small change. He and Judge Priest's 
Jeff, who was of the second generation of 
freedom, now furnished a touch of intense 
color relief, sitting together in one of the rear- 
most seats, guarding the piled-up personal 
baggage of the veterans. 

Shortly before train-time carriages came, 
bringing young Mrs. McLaurin, Kttle Rita 
Covington and Miss Minnie Lyon — the matron 
of honor, the sponsor and the maid of honor 
respectively of the delegation. Other towns 
no larger would be sure to send a dozen or more 
sponsors and maids and matrons of honor; 
but the home Camp was proverbially moderate 
in this regard. As Captain Woodward had 
once said: "We are charmed and honored by 
the smiles of our womanhood, and we worship 
every lovely daughter of the South; but, at a 
reunion of veterans, somehow I do love to see 
a veteran interspersed here and there in among 
the fair sex." 

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So now, as their special guests for this most 
auspicious occasion, they were taking along 
just these three — Rita Covington, a little 
eighteen-year-old beauty, and Minnie Lyon, 
a tall, fair, slender, pretty girl, and Mrs. Mc- 
Laurin. The two girls were in white linen, 
with touches of red at throat and waist; but 
young Mrs. McLaurin, who was a bride of two 
years' standing and plump and handsome, 
looked doubly handsome and perhaps a wee 
mite plumper than common in a tailor-made 
suit of mouse-gray, that was all tricked out 
with brass buttons and gold-braided cuffs, 
and a wide black belt, with a cavalry buckle. 
That the inspired tailor who built this costume 
had put the stars of a major-general on the 
collar and the stripes of a corporal on the sleeve 
was a matter of no consequence whatsoever. 
The color was right, the fit of the coat was 
unflawed by a single wrinkle fore or aft, and 
the brass buttons poured like molten gold down 
the front. Originally young Mrs. McLaurin 
had intended to reserve her mihtary suit for a 
crowning sartorial stroke on the day of the big 
parade; but at the last moment pride of posses- 
sion triumphed over the whisperings of dis- 
cretion, and so here she was now, trig and 
triumphant — though, if it must be confessed, 
a trifle closely laced in. Yet she found an 
immediate reward in the florid compliments of 
the old men. She radiated her satisfaction 
visibly as Doctor Lake and Captain Woodward 

[ 182 ] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 



ushered her and her two charges aboard the car 
with a ceremonious, Ivanhoeish deference, which 
had come down with them from their day to this, 
Hke the scent of old lavender lingering in ancient 
cedar chests. 

A further martial touch was given by the gray 
coats of the old men, by the big Camp badges 
and bronze crosses proudly displayed by all, 
and finally by Sergeant Jimmy Bagby, who, 
true to a habit of forty years' standing, was 
wearing the rent and faded jacket that he 
brought home from the war, and carrying on 
his shoulder the ancient rusted musket that 
had served him from Sumter to the fall of 
Richmond. 

The last of the party was on the decorated 
coach, the last ordinary traveler had boarded 
the single day-coach and the conductor was 
signaling for the start, when an erect old man, 
who all during the flurry of departure had been 
standing silent and alone behind the protecting 
shadow of the far side of the station, came 
swiftly across the platform, stepping with a 
high, noiseless, deerstalker's tread, and, just 
as the engine bleated its farewell and the wheels 
began to turn, swung himself on the forward 
car. At sight of two little crossed flags flutter- 
ing almost above his head he Hfted his slouch 
hat in a sort of shamed salute; but he kept his 
face turned resolutely away from those other 
old men to the rear of him. He cramped his 
great length down into a vacant seat in the day- 

[18S] 



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coach, and there he sat, gazing straight ahead 
at nothing, as the train drew out of the station, 
bearing him to his two years at hard labor and 
these one-time comrades of his to their jubila- 
ting at the annual reunion. 

As for the train, it went winding its leisurely 
and devious way down the branch line toward 
the Junction, stopping now and then at small 
country stations. The air that poured in 
through the open windows was sweet and heavy 
with Maytime odors of blossoming and bloom- 
ing. In the tobacco patches the adolescent 
plants stood up, fresh and velvet-green. 
Mating red birds darted through every track- 
side tangle of underbrush and wove threads 
of living flame back and forth over every 
sluggish, yellow creek; and sparrowhawks 
teetered above the clearmgs, hunting early 
grasshoppers. Once in a while there was a 
small cotton-patch. 

It was warm — almost as warm as a summer 
day. The two girls fanned themselves with 
their handkerchiefs and constantly brushed 
cinders off their starched blouses. Mrs. Mc- 
Laurin, buttoned in to her rounded throat, 
sat bolt-upright, the better to keep wTinkles 
from marring the flawless fit of her regimentals. 
She suffered like a Christian martyr of old, 
smiling with a sweet content — as those same 
Christian martyrs are said to have suffered 
and smiled. Judge Priest, sitting one seat to 
the rear of her, with Major Covington along- 

[184] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

side him, napped lightly with his head against 
the hot red plush of the seat-back. Sergeant 
Jimmy Bagby found the time fitting and the 
audience receptive to his celebrated and more 
than familiar story of what on a certain history- 
making occasion he heard General Breckin- 
ridge say to General Buckner, and what General 
Buckner said to General Breckinridge in reply. 

In an hour or so they began to draw out of 
the lowlands fructifying in the sunlight, and 
in among the craggy foothills. Here the knobs 
stood up, like the knuckle-bones of a great 
rough hand laid across the peaceful countryside. 
"Deadenings" flashed by, with the girdled, 
bleached tree-trunks rising, deformed and gaunt, 
above the young corn. The purpKsh pink of 
the redbud trees was thick in clumps on the 
hillsides. The train entered a cut with a steep 
fill running down on one side and a seamed cliff 
standing close up on the other. Small saplings 
grew out of the crannies in the rocks and swung 
their boughs downward so that the leaves 
almost brushed the dusty tops of the coaches 
sliding by beneath them. 

Suddenly, midway of this cut, there came a 
grinding and sliding of the wheels — the cars 
began creaking in all their joints as though 
they would rack apart; and, with a jerk which 
weakened Judge Priest and shook the others in 
their seats, the train halted. From up ahead 
somewhere, heard dimly through the escape 
of the freed steam, came a confusion of shouted 

1 185 ] 



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cries. Could they be nearing the Junction 
so soon? Mrs. McLaurin felt in a new hand- 
bag — of gray broadcloth with a gold clasp, to 
match her uniform — for a powder-rag. Then 
she shrank cowering back in her place, for leaping 
briskly up the car steps there appeared, framed 
in the open doorway just beyond her, an armed 
man — a short, broad man in a flannel shirt 
and ragged overalls, with a dirty white hand- 
kerchief bound closely over the bridge of his 
nose and shielding the lower part of his face. 
A long-barreled pistol was in his right hand 
and a pair of darting, evilly disposed eyes looked 
into her startled ones from under the brim of 
a broken hat. 

"Hands up, everybody!" he called out, 
and swung his gun right and left from his 
hip, so that its muzzle seemed to point all 
ways at once. "Hands up, everybody — and 
keep 'em up!" 

Behind this man, back to back with him, 
was the figure of another man, somewhat taller, 
holding similar armed dominion over the 
astounded occupants of the day-coach. This 
much, and this much only, in a flash of time 
was seen by Uncle Zach Matthews and Judge 
Priest's Jeff, as, animated by a joint instan- 
taneous impulse, they slid off their seat at the 
other end of the car and lay embraced on the 
floor, occupying a space you would not have 
believed could have contained one darky — 
let alone two. And it was seen more fully and 

[186] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

at greater length by the gray veterans as their 
arms with one accord rose stiflfly above the 
level of their heads; and also it was seen by the 
young matron, the sponsor and the maid of 
honor, as they huddled together, clinging to 
one another desperately for the poor comfort 
of close contact. Little Rita Covington, white 
and still, looked up with blazing gray eyes into 
the face of the short man with the pistol. She 
had the palms of both her hands pressed tightly 
against her ears. Rita was brave enough — 
but she hated the sound of firearms. Where 
she half knelt, haK crouched, she was almost 
under the elbow of the intruder. 

The whole thing was incredible — it was 
impossible! Train robberies had passed out 
of fashion years and years before. Here was 
this drowsing, quiet country lying just outside 
the windows, and the populous Junction only a 
handful of miles away; but, incredible or not, 
there stood the armed trampish menace in the 
doorway, shoulder to shoulder with an accom- 
plice. And from outside and beyond there came 
added evidence to the unbelievable truth of 
it in the shape of hoarse, imintelligible com- 
mands rising above a mingling of pointless out- 
cries and screams. 

"Is this a joke, sir, or what?" demanded 
Major Covington, choking with an anger born 
of his own helplessness and the undignifiedness 
of his attitude. 

"Old gent, if you think it's a joke jest let 

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me ketch you lowerin' them arms of yourn," 
answered back the yeggman. His words 
sounded husky, coming muffled through the 
handkerchief; but there was a grim threat 
in them, and for just a breathless instant the 
pistol-barrel stopped wavering and centered 
dead upon the major's white-vested breast. 

"Set right still, major," counseled Judge 
Priest at his side, not taking his eyes off the 
muffled face. "He's got the drop on us." 

" But to surrender without a blow — and 
we all old soldiers too!" lamented Major 
Covington, yet making no move to lower his 
arms. 

"I know — but set still," warned Judge 
Priest, his puckered glance taking toll side- 
ways of his fellow travelers — all of them 
with chagrin, amazement and indignation writ 
large upon their faces, and all with arms up 
and palms opened outward like a calisthenic 
class of elderly gray beards frozen stiff and soKd 
in the midst of some lung-expanding exercise. 
Any other time the picture would have been 
funny; but now it wasn't. And the hold-up 
laan was giving his further orders. 

"This ain't no joke and it ain't no time for 
foolin'. I gotter work fast and you all gotter 
keep still, or somebody'll git crippled up bad!" 

With his free hand he pulled off his broken 
derby, revealing matted red hair, with a dirty 
bald spot in the front. He held the hat in 
front of him, crown down. 



[1881 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 



"I'm goin' to pass through this car," he 
announced, "and I want everybody to con- 
tribute freely. You gents will lower one hand 
at a time and git yore pokes and kettles — 
watches and wallets — out of yore clothes. 
And remember, no monkey business — no 
goin' back to yore hip pockets — unless you 
wanter git bored with this!" he warned; and 
he followed up the warning with a nasty word 
which borrowed an added nastiness coming 
through his rag mask. 

His glance flashed to the right, taking in the 
quivering figures of the two girls and the young 
woman. "Loidies wdll contribute too," he 
added, 

"Oh!" gasped IVIrs. McLaurin miserably; 
and mechanically her right hand went across to 
protect the slender diamond bracelet on her 
left wrist; while tall IVIiss Lyon, crumpled and 
trembling, pressed herself still farther against 
the side of the car, and Rita Covington in- 
voluntarily clutched the front of her blouse, 
her fingers closing over the little chamois-skin 
bag that hung hidden there, suspended by a 
ribbon about her throat. Rita was an only 
daughter and a pampered one; her father was 
the wealthiest man in town and she owned 
handsomer jewels than an eighteen-year-old 
girl commonly possesses. The thief caught 
the meaning of those gestures and his red- 
rimmed eyes were greedy. 

"You dog, you!" snorted old Doctor Lake; 

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and he, like the major, sputtered in the impo- 
tence of his rage. "You're not going to rob 
these ladies too?" 

"I'm a-goin' to rob these loidies too," 
mimicked the thief. "And you, old gent, 
you'd better cut out the rough talk." With^ 
out turning his head, and with his pistol making 
shifting fast plays to hold the car in subjection, 
he called back: "Slim, there's richer pickin' 
here than we expected. If you can leave them 
rubes come help me clean up." 

"Just a second," was the answer from be^ 
hind him, "till I git this bunch hypnotized 
good." 

"Now then," called the red-haired man, 
swearing vilely to emphasize his meaning, 
"as I said before, cough up! Loidies first — 
you ! " And he motioned with his pistol toward 
Mrs. McLaurin and poked his hat out at her. 
Her trembling fingers fumbled at the clasp of 
her bracelet a moment and the slim band fell 
flashing into the hat. 

"You are no gentleman — so there!" qua- 
vered the unhappy lady, as a small, gemmed 
watch with a clasp, and a silver purse, followed 
the bracelet. Bessie Lyon shrank farther and 
farther away from him, with sobbing intakes 
of her breath. She was stricken mute and help- 
less with fear. 

"Now then," the red-haired man was address- 
ing Rita, "you next. Them purties you've 
got hid there inside yore shirt — I'll trouble 

1190] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

you for them! Quick now!" he snarled, seeing 
that she hesitated. "Git 'em out!'* 

"I ca-n't," she faltered, and her cheeks 
reddened through their dead pallor; "my 
waist — buttons — behind. I can't and I won't." 

The thief shifted his derby hat from his left 
hand to his right, holding it fast with his little 
finger hooked under the brim, while the other 
fingers kept the cocked revolver poised and 
ready. 

"I'll help you," he said; and as the girl 
tried to dodge away from him he shoved a 
stubby finger under the collar of her blouse and 
with a hard jerk ripped the lace away, leaving 
her white neck half bare. At her cry and the 
sound of the tearing lace her father forgot the 
threat of the gunbarrel — forgot everything. 

"You vile hound!" he panted. "Keep 
your filthy hand off of my daughter!" And 
up he came out of his seat. And old Judge 
Priest came with him, and both of them lunged 
forward over the seatback at the ruffian, three 
feet away. 

So many things began to happen then, 
practically all simultaneously, that never were 
any of the active participants able to recall 
exactly just what did happen and the order of 
the happening. It stood out afterward, though, 
from a jumble of confused recollections, that 
young Mrs. McLaurin screamed and fainted; 
that Bessie Lyon fainted quietly without 
screaming; and that little Rita Covington 

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neither fainted nor screamed, but snatched out- 
ward with a Hghtning quick slap of her hand 
at the fist of the thief which held the pistol, so 
that the bullet, exploding out of it with a jet of 
smoke, struck in the aisle instead of striking 
her father or Judge Priest. It was this bullet, 
the first and only one fired in the whole mix-up, 
that went slithering diagonally along the car 
floor, guttering out a hole Kke a worm-track 
in the wood and kicking up splinters right in 
the face of Uncle Zach Matthews and Judge 
Priest's Jeff as they lay lapped in tight embrace, 
so that they instantly separated and rose, like 
a brace of flushed blackbirds, to the top of the 
seat in front. From that point of vantage, 
with eyes popped and showing white all the way 
round, they witnessed what followed in the 
attitude of quiveringly interested onlookers. 
All in an instant they saw Major Coving- 
ton and Judge Priest struggling awkwardly 
with the thief over the intervening seatbackj, 
pawing at him, trying to wrest his hot weapon 
away from him; saw Mrs. McLaurin's head 
roll back inertly; saw the other hold-up man 
pivot about to come to his beleaguered partner's 
aid; and saw, filling the doorway behind this 
second ruffian, the long shape of old man Press 
Harper, as he threw himself across the joined 
platforms upon their rear, noiseless as a snake 
and deadly as one, his lean old face set in a 
square shape of rage, his hot red hair erect on 
his head like a Shawnee's scalplock, his gaunt, 

[192] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

long arms upraised and arched over and his 
big hands spread Hke grapples. And in that 
same second the whole aisle seemed filled with 
gray-coated, gray-haired old men, falling over 
each other and impeding each other's move- 
ments in their scrambling forward surge to 
take a hand in the fight. 

To the end of their bom days those two 
watching darkies had a story to tell that never 
lost its savor for teller or for audience — a story 
of how a lank, masked thief was taken by sur- 
prise from behind; was choked, crushed, beaten 
into instant helplessness before he had a chance 
to aim and fire; then was plucked backward, 
lifted high in the arms of a man twice his age 
and flung sidelong, his limbs flying like a whirli- 
gig as he rolled twenty feet down the steep 
slope to the foot of the fill. But this much 
was only the start of what Uncle Zach and Judge 
Priest's Jeff had to tell afterward. 

For now, then, reahzing that an attack was 
being made on his rear, the stockier thief broke 
Judge Priest's fumbhug grip upon his gun-hand 
and half swung himself about to shoot the 
unseen foe, whoever it might be; but, as he 
jammed its muzzle into the stomach of the 
newcomer and pressed the trigger, the left 
band of old Harper closed down fast upon the 
lock of the revolver, so that the hammer, 
coining down, only pinched viciously into his 
horny thumb. Breast to breast they wrestled 
in that narrow space at the head of the aisle 

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for possession of the weapon. The handker- 
chief mask had fallen away, showing brutal 
jaws covered with a red stubble, and loose 
lips snarled away from the short stained teeth. 
The beleaguered robber, young, stocky and 
stout, cursed and mouthed blasphemies; but 
the old man was silent except for his snorted 
breathing and his frame was distended and 
swollen with a terrible Berserker lust of battle. 

While Major Covington and Judge Priest 
and the foremost of the others got in one 
another's way and packed in a soKd, heaving 
mass behind the pair, all shouting and all trying 
to help, but really not helping at all, the red 
ruffian, grunting with the fervor of the blow, 
drove his clenched fist into old Harper's face, 
ripping the skin on the high Indian cheekbone. 
The old man dealt no blows in return, but his 
right hand found a grip in the folds of flesh at 
the tramp's throat and the fingers closed down 
like iron clamps on his wind. 

There is no telling how long a man of Harper's 
age and past habits might have maintained the 
crushing strength of that hold, even though 
rage had given him the vigor of bygone youth; 
but the red-stubbled man, gurgKng and wrig- 
gling to be free, began to die of suffocation before 
the grip weakened. To save himself he let go 
of the gunbutt, and the gun fell and bounced 
out of sight under a seat. Bearing down with 
both hands and all his might and weight upon 
Harper's right wrist, he tore the other's clasp 

[ 194 1 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

^— — — ^— — ' ' „ 

off his throat and staggered back, drawing the 
breath with sobbing sounds back into his burst- 
ing lungs. He would have got away then if he 
could, and he turned as though to flee the 
length of the car and escape by the rear door. 

The way was barred, by whooping, panting 
old men, hornet-hot. Everybody took a hand 
or tried to. The color-bearer shoved the staff 
of the flag between his legs and half tripped him, 
and as he regained his feet Sergeant Jimmy 
Bagby, jumping on a seat to get at him over 
the bobbing heads of his comrades, dealt him 
a glancing, clumsy blow on the shoulder with 
the muzzle of his old musket. Major Coving- 
ton and Judge Priest were still right on him, 
bearing their not inconsiderable bulk down 
upon his shoulders. 

He could have fought a path through these 
hampering forces. Wresthng and striking out, 
he half shoved, half threw them aside; but 
there was no evading the gaunt old man who 
bore down on him from the other direction. 
The look on the face of the old warlock daunted 
him. He yelled just once, a wordless howl of 
fear and desperation, and the yell was smothered 
back into his throat as Harper coiled down on 
him like a python, fettering with his long arms 
the shorter, thicker arms of the thief, crushing 
his ribs in, smothering him, killing him with a 
frightful tightening pressure. Locked fast in 
Harper's embrace, he went down on his back 
underneath; and now — all this taking place 

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much faster than it has taken me to write it 
or you to read it — the old man reared himself 
up. He put his booted foot squarely on the 
contorted face of the yeggman and twdsted the 
heel brutally, like a man crushing a worm, and 
mashed the thief's face to pulp. Then he 
seized him by the collar of his shirt, dragged 
him like so much carrion back the length of 
the car, the others making a way for him, and, 
with a last mighty heave, tossed him off the 
rear platform and stood watching him as he 
flopped and rolled slackiy down the steep grade 
of the right-of-way to the gully at the bottom. 
All this young Jeff and Uncle Zach mtnessed, 
and at the last they began cheering. As they 
cheered there was a whistle of the air and the 
cars began to move — slowly at first, with hard 
jerks on the couplings; and then smoother and 
faster as the wheels took hold on the rails, and 
the track-joints began to click-clack in regular 
rhythm. And, as the train slid away, those 
forward who mustered up the hardihood to 
peer out of the windows saw one man — a red- 
haired, half -bald one — ^Tiggling feebly at 
the foot of the cut, and another one struggling 
to his feet uncertainly, meanwhile holding his 
hands to his stunned head; and, still farther 
along, a third, who fled nimbly up the bank 
and into the undergrowth beyond, without a 
backward glance. Seemingly, all told, there 
had been only three men concerned in the 
abortive holdup. 

[196 ] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 



Throughout its short length the train sizzled 
with excitement and rang with the cries of 
some to go on and of others to go back and make 
prisoners of the two crippled yeggs; but the 
conductor, like a wise conductor, signaled the 
engineer to make all speed ahead, being glad 
enough to have saved his train and his passen- 
gers whole. On his way through to take an 
inventory of possible damage and to ascertain 
the cause of things, he was delayed in the day- 
coach by the necessity of calming a hysterical 
country woman, so he missed the best part of 
what was beginning to start in the decorated 
rear coach. 

There Mrs. McLaurin and tall IVIiss Lyon 
were emerging from their fainting fits, and 
little Rita Covington, now that the danger 
was over and past, wept in a protecting crook 
of her father's arm. Judge Priest's Jeff was 
salvaging a big revolver, with one chamber 
fired, from under a seat. Eight or nine old 
men were surrounding old Press Harper, all 
talking at once, and all striving to pat him on 
the back with clumsy, caressing slaps. And out 
on the rear platform, side by side, stood Ser- 
geant Jimmy Bagby and Corporal Jake Smedley ; 
the corporal was wildly waving his silk flag, 
now unfurled to show the blue St. Andrew's 
cross, white-starred on a red background,waving 
it first up and down and then back and forth 
with all the strength of his arms, until the silk 
squai-e popped and whistled in the air of the 

[197] 



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rushing train; the sergeant was going through 
the motions of loading and aiming and firing 
his ancient rusted musket. And at each 
imaginary discharge both of them, in a cracked 
duet, cheered for Jefferson Davis and the 
Southern Confederacy ! 

Just about then the locomotive started 
whistling for the Junction; outlying sheds 
and shanties, a section house and a water- 
tank or so began to flitter by. At the first 
blast of the whistle all the lingering fire of 
battle and victory faded out of Harper's face 
and he sat down heavily in a seat, fumbling 
at the inner breast pocket of his coat. There 
was a bloody smear high up on his cheek and 
blood dripped from the ball of his split thumb. 

*'Boys, there's some fight left in us yet," 
exulted Captain Shelby Woodward, "and no- 
body knows it better than those two scoundrels 
back yonder ! We all took a hand — we all 
did what we could; but it was you. Press — 
it was you that licked 'em both — single- 
handed! Boys," he roared, glancing about 
him, "won't this make a story for the reunion 
■ — and won't everybody there be making a fuss 
over old Press!" He stopped then — remem- 
bering. 

"I don't go through with you," said old 
Press, steadily enough. "I git off here. You 
fellers are goin' on through — but I git off here 
to wait for the other train." 

"You don't do no such of a thing!" broke 

[198] 



WHEN THE FIGHTING WAS GOOD 

in Judge Priest, his voice whanging like a bow- 
string. "Press Harper, you don't do no such 
of a thing. You give me them papers!" he 
demanded almost roughly. " You're goin' right 
on through to the reunion with the rest of us — 
that's where you're goin'. You set right where 
you are in this car, and let little Rita Covington 
wipe that there blood off your face and tie up 
that thumb of yours. Why, Press, we jest 
naturally couldn't get along without you at the 
reunion. Some of us are liable to celebrate 
a little too much and maybe git a mite over- 
taken, and we'll be needin' you to take care 
of us. 

"You see, boys," the old judge went on, 
with a hitch in his voice, addressing them 
generally, "Press here is under a pledge 
to me not to touch another drop of licker till 
he begins servin' the sentence I imposed on 
him; and, boys, that means Press is goin' 
to be a temperance man for the balance of his 
days — if I know anything about the pardonin' 
power and the feelin's of the governor of this 
state!" 

So, as the accommodation ran in to the 
Junction, where crowds were packed on the 
platform and pretty girls, dressed in white, 
with touches of red at throat and belt, waved 
handkerchiefs, and gimpy-legged old men in 
gray uniforms hobbled stiffly back and forth, 
and the local band blared out its own pecuhar 
interpretation of My Old Kentucky Home, the 

[m] 



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tall old man with the gashed cheek sat in his 
seat, his face transfigured with a great light 
of joy and hi^ throat muscles clicking with the 
sobs he was choking down, while little Rita 
Covington's fingers dabbed caressingly at his 
wound wdth a handkerchief dipped in ice water 
and a dozen old veterans jostled one another 
to shake his hand. And they hit him on the 
back with comradely blows — and maybe they 
did a Httle crying themselves. But Sergeant 
Jimmy Bagby and Corporal Jacob Smedley 
took no part in this. Out on the rear platform 
they still stood, side by side, waving the flag 
and firing the unfirable musket harder and 
faster than ever; and, as one waved and the 
other loaded and fired, they cheered together: 
"'Rah for Jefferson Davis, the Southern Con- 
federacy — and Pressley G. Harper!" 



{dOO] 



vn 

STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 



AS THE Daily Evening News, with 
pardonable enthusiasm, pointed out 
at the time, three events of practically 
national importance took place in 
town all in that one week. On Tuesday night 
at 9:37 there was a total eclipse of the moon, 
not generally visible throughout the United 
States; on Wednesday morning the Tri-State 
Steam and Hand Laundry men's Association 
began a two-days annual convention at St. 
Clair Hall; and on Saturday at high noon 
Eastern capital, in the person of J. Hayden 
Witherbee, arrived. 

And the greatest of these was Witherbee. 
The eclipse of the moon took place on its 
appointed schedule and was witnessed through 
opera glasses and triangular fragments of 
windowpane that had been smudged with 
candlesmoke. The Tri-State Laundrymen 
came and heard reports, elected officers, had 
a banquet a*^ the Richland House and departed 

[201] 



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to their several homes. But J. Hay den Wither- 
bee stayed on, occupying the bridal chamber 
at the hotel — the one with the private bath 
attached; and so much interest and specula- 
tion did his presence create, and so much space 
did the Daily Evening News give in its valued 
columns to his comings and goings and his 
sayings and doings, that the name of J. Hayden 
Witherbee speedily became, as you might say, 
a household word throughout the breadth and 
length of the Daily Evening News' circulation. 
It seemed that J. Hayden Witherbee, sitting 
there in his lofty office building far away in 
Wall Street, New York, had had his keen eye 
upon the town for some time; and yet — such 
were the inscrutable methods of the man — the 
town hadn't known anything about it, hadn't 
even suspected it. However, he had been 
watching its growth with the deepest interest; 
and when, by the count of the last United 
States census, it jumped from seventh in popu- 
lation in the state to fifth he could no longer 
restrain liimself. He got aboard the first 
train and came right on. He had, it would 
appear, acted with such promptness because, 
in his own mind, he had already decided that 
the town would make an ideal terminal point 
for his proposed Tobacco & Cotton States 
Interurban Trolley fine, which would in time 
link together with twin bonds of throbbing 
steel — the words are those of the reporter for 
the Daily Evening News — no less than twenty- 

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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 



two growing towns, ranging southward from 
the river. Hence his presence, exuding from 
every pore, as it were, the very essences of 
power and influence and money. The paper 
said he was one of the biggest men in Wall 
Street, a man whose operations had been always 
conducted upon the largest scale. 

This, within the space of three or four months, 
had been our second experience of physical 
contact with Eastern capital. The first one, 
though, had been in the nature of a disappoint- 
ment. A man named Betts — Henry Betts — 
had come down from somewhere in the North 
and, for a lump sum, had bought outright the 
city gasworks. It was not such a big lump 
sum, because the gasworks had been built 
right after the war and had thereafter remained 
untouched by the stimulating hand of improve- 
ment. They consisted in the main of a crumbly 
little brick engine house, full of antiquated and 
self-willed machinery, and just below it, on 
the riverbank, a round and rusted gas tank, 
surrounded by sloping beds of coal cinders, 
through which at times sluggish rivulets of 
molten coal tar percolated like lava on the flanks 
of a toy volcano. The mains took in only the 
old part of town — not the new part; and the 
quality of illumination furnished was so flickery 
at all seasons and so given ^to freezing up in 
winter that many subscribers, including even 
the leading families, used coal-oil lamps in 
their bedchambers until the electric power 

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house was built. A stock company of exceed- 
ingly conservative business men had owned the 
gasworks prior to the advent of Henry Betts, 
and the general manager of the plant had been 
Cassius Poindexter, a fellow townsman. Cash 
Poindexter was a man who, in his day, had 
tried his 'prentice hand at many things. At 
one time he traveled about in a democrat 
wagon, taking orders for enlarging crayon 
portraits from photographs and tintypes, and 
also for the frames to accompany the same. 
At a more remote period he had been the 
authorized agent, on commission, for a light- 
ning-rod company, selling rods with genuine 
guaranteed platinum tips; and rusty iron 
stringers, with forked tails, which still adhered 
to outlying farm buildings here and there in 
the county, testified to his activities in this 
regard. Again, Cash Poindexter had held 
the patent rights in four counties for an im- 
proved cream separator. In the early stages 
of the vogue for Belgian-hare culture in this 
country he was the first to import a family 
group of these interesting animals into our 
section. He had sold insurance of various 
sorts, including !dfe, fire and cyclone; he was 
a notary public; he had tried real estate, and 
he had once enjoyed the distinction of having 
read lawbooks and works on medicine simul- 
taneously. But in these, his later years, he 
had settled do^Ti more or less and had become 
general manager of the gasworks, which 

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position also included the keeping of the books, 
the reading of meters and the making out and 
collecting of the monthly accounts. Never- 
theless, he was understood to be working at 
spare moments on an invention that would 
make him independently wealthy for life. He 
was a tall, thin, sad man, with long, drooping 
side whiskers; and he was continually comb- 
ing back his side whiskers with both hands 
caressingly, and this gave him the appearance 
of a man parting a pair of string portieres and 
getting ready to walk through them, but never 
doing so. 

When this Mr. Betts came down from the 
North and bought the gasworks it was the 
general expectation that he would extensively 
overhaul and enlarge the plant; but he did 
nothing of the sort, seeming, on the contrary, 
to be amply satisfied with things as they were. 
He installed himself as general manager, re- 
tained Cash Poindexter as his assistant, and 
kept right on with the two Kettler boys as his 
engineers and the two darkies, Ed Greer and 
Lark Tilghman, as his firemen. He was a man 
who violated all traditions and ideals concern- 
ing how Northern capitalists ought to look. 
He neither wore a white pique vest nor smoked 
long, black cigars; in fact, he didn't smoke 
at all. He was a short,, square, iron-gray 
person, with a sort of dead and fossilized eye. 
He looked as though he might have been rough- 
hewn originally from one of those soapstone 

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clays which grow the harder with age and 
exposure. He had a hard, exact way of talk- 
ing, and he wore a hard, exact suit of clothes 
which varied not, weekdays or Sundays, in 
texture or in cut. 

In short, Mr. Henry Betts, the pioneer 
Eastern investor in those parts, was a profound 
disappointment as to personality and per- 
formances. Not so with J. Hayden Witherbee. 
From his Persian-lamb lapels to his patent- 
leather tips he was the physical embodiment 
of all the town had learned to expect of a 
visiting Wall Street capitalist. And he liked 
the town — that was plain. He spoke en- 
thusiastically of the enterprise which animated 
it; he referred frequently and with praise to 
the awakening of the New South, and he was 
even moved to compliment publicly the cook- 
ing at the Richland House. It was felt that 
a stranger and a visitor could go no further. 

Also, he moved fast, J. Hayden Witherbee 
did, showing the snap and push so characteristic 
of the ruling spirits of the great moneymarts of 
the East. Before he had been in town a week 
he had opened negotiations for the purchase 
outright of the new Light and Power Company, 
explaining frankly that if he could come to 
terms he intended making it a part of his pro- 
jected interurban railway. Would the present 
owners care to sell at a fair valuation.^ — that 
was what Mr. Witherbee desired to know. 

Would a drowning man grasp at a life-pre- 

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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 



server? Would a famished colt welcome the 
return of its maternal parent at eventide? 
Would the present owners, carrying on their 
galled backs an unprofitable burden which 
local pride had forced upon them — would 
they sell? Here, as manna sent from Heaven 
by way of Wall Street, as you might say, was 
a man who would buy from them a property 
which had never paid and which might never 
pay; and who, besides, meant to do something 
noble and big for the town. Would they sell? 
Ask them something hard! 

There was a series of conferences — if two 
conferences can be said to constitute a series — 
one in Mr. Witherbee's room at the hotel, 
where cigars of an unknown name but an im- 
pressive bigness were passed round freely; and 
one in the office of the president of the Planters' 
National Bank. Things went well and swim- 
mingly from the first; Mr. J. Hay den Witherbee 
had a most clear and definite way of putting 
things; and yet, with all that, he was the 
embodiment of cordiality and courtesy. So 
charmed was Doctor Lake with his manner 
that he asked him, right in the midst of vital 
negotiations, if he were not of Southern descent; 
and when he confessed that his mother's peopl 
had come from Virginia Doctor Lake said hh 
had felt it from the first moment they met, and 
insisted on shaking hands with Mr. Witherbee 
again. l^ 

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Witherbee — this 

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was said at the first meeting, the one in his 
room — "as I have already told you, I need 
this town as a terminal for my interurban road 
and I need your plant. I expect, of course, 
to enlarge it and to modernize it right up to 
the minute; but, so far as it goes, it is a very 
good plant and I want it. I suggest that you 
gentlemen, constituting the directors and the 
majority stockholders, get together between 
now and tomorrow — this evening, say — and 
put a price on the property. Tomorrow I will 
meet you again, here in this hotel or at any 
point you may select; and if the price you fix 
seems fair, and the papers prove satisfactory 
to my lawyers, I know of no reason why we 
cannot make a trade. Gentlemen, good day. 
Take another cigar all round before leaving." 
They went apart and confabbed industri- 
ously — old Major CoAdngton, who was the 
president of the Light and Power Company, 
Doctor Lake and Captain Woodward, the 
two heaviest stockholders, Colonel Courtney 
Cope, the attorney for the company and like- 
wise a director, and sundry others. Between 
themselves, being meanwhile filled with sweet 
and soothing thoughts, they named a price 
that would let them out whole, with a margin 
of interest on the original venture, and yet 
one which, everything considered — the grow- 
ing population, the new suburbs and all that — 
was a decent enough price. They expected to 
be hammered down a few thousand and were 



[208] 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

prepared to concede something; but it would 
seem that the big men of the East did not do 
business in that huckstering, cheese-trimming 
way. Time to them was evidently worth more 
than the money to be got by long chaffering 
over a proposition. 

"Gentlemen," J. Hayden Witherbee had 
said right off, "the figures seem reasonable 
and moderate. I think I will buy from you." 

A warm, glow visibly lit up the faces of those 
who sat with him. It was as though J. Hayden 
Witherbee was an open fireplace and threw off 
a pleasant heat. 

"I will take over these properties," repeated 
Mr. J. Hayden Witherbee; "but on one con- 
dition — I also want the ownership of your 
local gasworks." 

There was a little pause and the glow died 
down a trifle — just the merest trifle. "But, 
sir, we do not own those gasworks," said the 
stately Major Covington. 

"I know that," said Mr. Witherbee; "but 
the point is — can't you acquire them.^^" 

"I suppose we might," said the major; "but, 
Mr. Witherbee, that gasworks concern is worn 
out — our electric-light plant has nearly put it 
out of business." 

"I understand all that too," IVIr. Witherbee 
went on, "perfectly well. Gentlemen, where I 
come from we act quickly, but we look before 
we leap. During the past twenty-four hours 
I have examined into the franchise of those 

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gasworks. I find that nearly forty years ago 
your common council issued to the original 
promoters and owners of the gas company a 
ninety-year charter, giving the use of any 
and all of your streets, not only for the laying 
of gas mains, but for practically all other pur- 
poses. It was an unwise thing to do, but it 
was done and it stands so today. Gentlemen, 
this is a growing community in the midst of a 
rich country. I violate no confidence in telling 
you that capital is looking this way. I am 
merely the forerunner — the first in the field. 
The Gatins crowd, in Chicago, has its eyes 
upon this territory, as I have reason to 
know. You are, of course, acquainted with the 
Gatins crowd.'^" he said in a tone of putting 
a question. 

Major Covington, who made a point of 
n^er admitting that he didn't know everything, 
nodded gravely and murmured the name over 
to himself as though he were trying to remember 
Gatins' initials. The others sat silent, im- 
pressed more than ever with the wisdom of this 
stranger who had so many pertinent facts at 
his finger tips. 

"Suppose now," went on IVir. Witherbee — 
"suppose, now, that Ike Gatins and his crowd 
should come down here and find out what I 
have found out and should buy out that gas 
company. Why, gentlemen, under the terms 
of that old franchise, those people could actually 
lay tracks right through the streets of this Httle 

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*e 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

city of yours. They could parallel our lines — 
they could give us active opposition right here 
on the home ground. It might mean a hard 
fight. Therefore I need those gasworks. I 
may shut them up or I may run them — but 
I need them in my business. 

"I have inquired into the ownership of this 
concern," continued IVIr. Witherbee before any 
one could interrupt him, "and I find it was re- 
cently purchased outright by a gentleman from 
somewhere up my way named — named — " 

He snapped his fingers impatiently. 

Named Betts," suppKed Doctor Lake — 
named Henry Betts." 

"Quite so," Mr. Witherbee assented. 
Thank you, doctor — Betts is the name. 
Now the fact that the whole property is vested 
in one man simplifies the matter — doesn't 
it.f^ Of course I would not care to go to this 
Mr. Betts in person. You understand that." 

If they didn't understand they let on they 
did, merely nodding and waiting for more 
light to be let in. 

"Once let it be known that I was personally 
interested in a consolidation of yoiu* lighting 
plants, and this IMr. Betts, if I know anything 
about human nature, would advance his valua- 
tion far beyond its proper figure. Therefore 
I cannot afford to be known in the matter. 
You see that?" 

They agreed that they saw. 

" So I would suggest that all of you — or 

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some of you — go and call upon Mr. Betts 
and endeavor to buy the gasworks from him 
outright. If you can get the plant for any- 
thing like its real value you may include the 
amount in the terms of the proposition you 
have today made me and I will take over all 
of the properties together. 

"However, remember this, gentlemen — there 
is need of haste. Withm forty-eight hours I 
should be in Memphis, where I am to confer 
with certain of my associates — Eastern men 
like myself, but who, unlike me, are keeping 
under cover — to confer with them concerning 
our rights-of-way through the cotton-raising 
country. I repeat, then, that there is pressing 
need for immediate action. May I offer you 
gentlemen fresh cigars?" and he reached for a 
well-stuffed, silver-mounted case of dull leather. 

But they were aheady going — going in a 
body to see Mr. Henry Betts, late of somewhere 
up North. Mr. J. Hayden Witherbee's haste, 
great though it might be, could be no greater 
than theirs. On their way down Market 
Street to the gashouse it was decided that, unless 
the exigencies of the situation demanded a 
chorus of argument. Major Covington should 
do the talking. Indeed it was Major Coving- 
ton who suggested this. Talking, with financial 
subjects at the back of the talk, was one of the 
things at which the major fancied himself a 
success. 

Mr. Betts sat in the clutter of his small. 



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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

untidy office like an elderly and reserved gray 
rat in a paper nest behind a wainscoting. 
His feet, in square-toed congress gaiters, rested 
on the fender of a stove that was almost small 
enough to be an inkstand, and his shoulders 
were jammed back against a window-ledge. 
By merely turning his head he commanded a 
view of his entire property, with the engine 
house in the near distance and the round tun- 
like belly of the gas tank rising just beyond it. 
He was alone. 

As it happened, he knew all of his callers, 
having met them in the way of business — 
which was the only way he ever met anybody. 
To each man entering he vouchsafed the same- 
greeting — namely, "How-do?" — spoken with- 
out emotion and mechanically. 

Major Covington had intended to shake 
hands with Mr. Betts, but something about 
Mr. Betts' manner made him change his mind. 
He cleared his throat impressively; the major 
did nearly everything impressively. 

"A fine day, sir," said the major. 

Mr. Betts turned his head slightly to the 
left and peered out through a smudged pane 
as if seeking visual confirmation of the state- 
ment before committing himself. A look seemed 
to satisfy him. 

"It is," he agreed, and waited, boring his 
company with his geologic gaze. 

" Ahem ! ' ' sparred Major Covington -* " ^ 
think I will take a chair." 

U13| 



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As Mr. Betts said nothing to this, either one 
way or the other, the major took a chair, it 
being the only chair in sight, with the excep- 
tion of the chair in which Mr. Betts was slumped 
down and from which IMr. Betts had not stirred. 
Doctor Lake perched himself upon a book- 
keeper's tall stool that wabbled precariously. 
Three other anxious local capitalists stood 
where they could find room, which was on the 
far side of the stove. 

"Very seasonable weather indeed,'* ventured 
the old major, still fencing for his start. 

"So you remarked before, I believe," said 
Mr. Betts dryly. "Did you wish to see me on 
business?" 

Inwardly the major was remarking to him- 
self how astonishing it was that one section of 
the country — to wit, the North — could pro- 
duce men of such widely differing types as this 
man and the man whose delightful presence they 
had just quitted; could produce a gentleman like 
J. Hayden Witherbee, with whom it was a posi- 
tive pleasure to discuss affairs of moment, and a 
dour, sour, flinty person like this Betts, who was 
lacking absolutely in the smaller refinements 
that should govern intercourse between gentle- 
men — and wasn't willing to learn them either. 
Outwardly the major, visibly flustered, was say- 
ing: "Yes — in a measure. Yes, we came on 
a matter of business." He pulled up somewhat 
lamely. Really the man's attitude was almost 
forbidding. It verged on the sinister. 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

"What was the business?" pressed Mr. 
Betts in a colorless and entirely disinterested 
tone of voice. 

"Well, sir," said Major Covington stiffly, and 
his rising temper and his sense of discretion were 
now wrestling together inside of him — " well, sir, 
to be brief and to put it in as few words as pos- 
sible, which from your manner and conversation 
I take to be your desire, I — we — my associ- 
ates here and myself — have called in to say 
that we are interested naturally in the develop- 
ment of our little city and its resources and its in- 
dustries; and with these objects in view we have 
felt, and, in fact, we have agreed among our- 
selves, that we would like to enter into negotia- 
tions with you, if possible, touching, so to speak, 
on the transfer to us of the property which you 
control here. Or, in other words, we — " 

"Do you mean you want to buy these gas- 
works?" 

"Yes," confessed the major; "that — that 
is it. We would like to buy these gasworks." 

"Immediately!" blurted out Doctor Lake, 
teetering on his high perch. The major shot 
a chiding glance at his compatriot. Mr. Betts 
looked over the top of the stove at the major, 
and then beyond him at the doctor, and then 
beyond the doctor at the others. Then he 
looked out of the window again. 

"They are not for sale," he stated; and his 
voice indicated that he regarded the subject 
as being totally exhausted. 

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"Yes, quite so; I see," said Major Covington 
suavely; "but if we could agree on a price 
now — a price that would be satisfactory to 
you — and to us — " 

"We couldn't agree on a price," said Mr. 
Betts, apparently studying something in con- 
nection with the bulging side of the gas tank 
without, "because there isn't any price to 
agree on. I bought these gasworks and I own 
them, and I am satisfied to go on owning them. 
Therefore they are not for sale. Did you have 
any other business with me?" 

There was something almost insulting in the 
way this man rolled his r's when he said "there- 
fore." Checking an inclination to speak on 
the part of Doctor Lake the major controlled 
himself with an effort and said : 

"Nevertheless, we would appreciate it very 
much, sir, if you could and would go so far 
as to put a figure — any reasonable figure — 
on this property. We would like very much 
to get an expression from you — a suggestion — 
or — or — something of that general nature," 
he tailed off. 

"Very well," said Mr. Betts, biting the words 
off short and square, "very well. I will. 
What you want to know is my price for these 
gasworks?" 

"Exactly so," said the major, brightening 
up. 

"Very well," repeated Mr. Betts. "Sixty 
thousand." 



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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 



Doctor Lake gave such a violent start that 
he lost his hat out of his lap. Captain Wood- 
ward's jaw dropped. 

** Sixty thousand!" echoed Major Covmgton 
blankly. *' Sixty thousand what? " 

"Sixty thousand dollars," said Mr. Betts, 
"in cash." 

Major Covington fairly sputtered surprise 
and chagrin. 

"But, IVIr. Betts, su*," he protested, "I 
happen to know that less than four months ago 
you paid only about twenty-seven thousand 
dollars for this entire business!" 

"Twenty-six thousand five hundred, to be 
exact," corrected Mr. Betts. 

"And smce that time you have not added a 
dollar's worth of improvement to it," added 
the dismayed major. 

"Not one cent — let alone a dollar," assented 
this most remarkable man. 

"But surely you don't expect us to pay such 
a price as that?" pleaded the major. 

"I do not," said Mi\ Betts. 

"We couldn't thmk of paying such a price 
as that." 

"I don't expect you to," said Mr. Betts. 
^'I didn't ask you to. As I said before, these 
gasworks are not for sale. They suit me just 
as they are. They are not on the market; 
but you insist that I shall name a price and I 
name it — sixty thousand in cash. Take it or 
leave it." 

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Having concluded this, for him, unusually 
long speech, Mr. Belts brought his fingertips 
together with great mathematical exactness, 
matching each finger and each thumb against 
its fellow as though they were all parts of a 
sum in addition that he was doing. With his 
fingers added up to his satisfaction and the 
total found correct, he again turned his gaze 
out of the smudgy window. This time it 
was something on the extreme top of the gas 
tank which seemed to engage his attention. 
Cassius Poindexter opened the street door and 
started in; but at the sight of so much com- 
pany he checked himself on the threshold, 
combed back his side whiskers nervously, 
bowed dumbly and withdrew, closing the door 
softly behind him. 

"If we could only reach some reasonable 
basis of figuring now," said the major, address- 
ing Mr. Betts' left ear and the back of Mr. 
Betts' head — "say, forty thousand, now.^^" 
Mr. Betts squinted his Stone Age eyes the 
better to see out of the dirty window. 

"Or even forty-five?" supplemented Doctor 
Lake, unable to hold in any longer. "AVhy, 
damn it, sir, forty-five thousand is a fabulous 
price to pay for this junkpile." 

"Sixty thousand — in cash!" The ultima- 
tum seemed to issue from the rear of Mr. 
Betts' collar. 

Major Covington glanced about him, taking 
toll of the expressions of his associates. On 

1 218 ] 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 



their faces sorrowful capitulation was replacing 
chagrin. He nodded toward them and together 
they nodded back sadly. 

"How much did you say you wanted down?" 
gulped the major weakly. 

"All down," announced Mr. Betts in a tone 
of finality; " all in cash. Those are my terms." 

" But it isn't regular ! " babbled Colonel Cope. 

"It isn't regular for a man to sell something 
he doesn't want to sell either," gulped Mr. 
Betts. "I bought for cash and I sell for cash. 
I never do business any other way." 

"How much time will you give us?" asked 
the major. The surrender was complete and 
unconditional. 

"Until this time tomorrow," said Mr. Betts; 
"then the deal is off." Doctor Lake slid off 
his stool, or else he fell off. At any rate, he 
descended from it hurriedly. His face was 
very red. 

"Well, of all the—" he began; but the 
major and the colonel had him by the arms and 
were dragging him outside. When they were 
gone — all of them — Mr. Betts indulged him- 
self in the luxury of a still, small smile — a 
smile that curled his lips back just a trifle and 
died of frostbite before it reached his fossilized 
eyes. 

"Gentlemen," Mr. Witherbee was saying in 
his room at the Richland House ten minutes 
later, "the man has you at his mercy and 
apparently he knows it. I wouldn't be sur- 

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prised if he had not already been in communi- 
cation with the Gatins crowd. His attitude 
is suspicious. As I view it, it is most certainly 
suspicious. Gentlemen, I would advise you 
to close with him. He is asking a figure far in 
excess of the real value of the works — but 
what can you do.^^" 

"And will you take the gasworks at sixty 
thousand.'^" inquired Major Covington hope- 
fully. 

"Ah, gentlemen," said Mr. Witherbee, and 
Ms smile was sympathetic and all-embracing, 
"that, I think, is asking too much; but, in view 
of the circumstances, I will do this — I will 
take them at" — he paused to consider — "I 
will take them, gentlemen, at fifty thousand. 
In time I think I can make them worth that 
much to me; but fifty thousand is as far as I 
can go — positively. You stand to lose ten 
thousand on your deal for the gasworks, but 
I presume you will make that back and more 
on your sale to me of the light and power plant. 
Can't I offer you fresh cigars, gentlemen.^" 

If for any reason a run had started on any 
one of the three local banks the next day there 
would have been the devil and all to pay, 
because there was mighty little ready money 
in any one of them. Their vaults had been 
scraped clean of currency; and that currency, 
in a compact bundle, was rapidly traveling 
eastward in the company of a smalHsh iron- 
gray man answering to the name of Betts. At 

[220] 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

about the same moment Mr. Witherbee, with 
the assistance of the darky porter of the Rich- 
land House, was packing his wardrobe into an 
ornate travehng kit. As he packed he explained 
to Doctor Lake and Major Covington: 

"I am called to Memphis twenty -four hours 
sooner than I had expected. Tomorrow we 
close a deal there involving, I should say, half 
a million dollars. Let us see — this is Wednes- 
day — isn't it? I will return here on Friday 
morning. Meanwhile you may have the papers 
drawn by your attorney and ready for sub- 
mission to my lav/yer, Mr. Sharkey, who should 
arrive tomorrow from Cincinnati. If he finds 
them all shipshape, as I have every reason to 
expect he will find them, then, on Friday morn- 
ing, gentlemen, we will sign up and I will pay 
the binder, amounting to — how much.? — 
ninety thousand, I believe, was the figure we 
agreed upon. Quite so. Gentlemen, you will 
find a box of my favorite cigars on that bureau 
yonder. Help yourselves." 

No lawyer named Sharkey arrived from Cin- 
cinnati on Thursday; no J. Hay den Witherbee 
returned from Memphis on Friday — nor was 
there word from him by wire or mail. The 
s papers, drawn in Colonel Cope's best legal 
style, all fringed and trimmed with whereases 
and wherefores, waited — and waited. Tele- 
grams which Major Covington sent to Mem- 
phis remained unanswered; in fact, undelivered. 
Major Covington suddenly developed a cold 

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and sinking sensation at the pit of his stomach. 
In his associates he discerned signs of the same 
chilling manifestation. It seemed to occur to 
all of them at once that nobody had asked 
J. Hayden Witherbee for his credentials or had 
inquired into his antecedents. Glamoured by 
the grandeur of his person, they had gone along 
with him — had gone along until now blindly. 
Saturday, hour by hour, darkling suspicion 
grew in each mind and reared itself like a totem 
pole adorned with snake-headed, hawk-clawed 
figments of dread. And on Saturday, for the 
first time in a solid week the Daily Evening 
News carried no front-page account of the 
latest doings and sayings of J. Hayden Wither- 
bee. 

Upon a distracted conference, taking place 
Saturday night in the directors' room of the 
bank, intruded the sad figure of Cassius Poin- 
dexter, combing back his side whiskers like 
a man eternally on the point of parting a pair 
of lace curtains and never coming through 
them. 

"Excuse me," he said, "but I've got some- 
thing to say that I think you gentlemen oughter 
hear. If you thought those two — Wither- 
bones, or whatever his name is, and my late 
employer, Henry Betts — if you all thought 
those two were strangers to one another you 
were mistaken — that's all. Two weeks ago 
I saw a letter on Betts' desk signed by this man 
Witherbee — if that's his name. And Tuesday 

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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

when Betts told me he was goin' to sell out, I 
remembered it." 

The major was the first to get his voice back; 
and it was shaky with rage and — other emo- 
tions. 

"You — you saw us all there Tuesday morn- 
ing," he shouted, " didn't you ? And when Betts 
told you he was going to sell and you remem- 
bered about Witherbee why didn't you have 
sense enough to put two and two together?" 

"I did have sense enough to put two and 
two together," answered Cassius Poindexter 
in hurt tones. "That's exactly what I did." 

"Then why in the name of Heaven didn't 
you come to us — to me — and tell us.^^" 
demanded the major. 

"Well, sirs," said the intruder, "I was figurin' 
on doin' that very thing, but it sort of slipped 
out of my mind. You see, I've been thinldn' 
right stiddy lately about an invention that 
I'm workin' on at odd times — I'm perfectin' 
a non-refillable bottle," he explained — "and 
somehow or other this here other matter plum' 
escaped me." 

The door closed upon the inventor. Stunned 
into silence, they sat mute for a long, ghastly 
half minute. Doctor Lake was the first to 
'snenk * 

"If I could afford it," he said softly — "if at 
present I could afford it I'd put a dynamite 
bomb under that gashouse and blow it up! 
And I'd do it anyhow," he went on, warming 

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to his theme, "if I was only right certain of 
blowing up that idiot and his non-refillable 
bottle along with it!" 

Malley, of the Sun, was doing the hotel run 
this night. He came up to the room clerk's 
wicket at the desk of the Royal. 

"Say, Mac," he hailed, "what's the pros- 
pect? So far, all I've got is one rubber mag- 
nate from South x\merica — a haughty hidalgo 
with an Irish name and a New England accent, 
who was willing to slip me a half-column inter- 
view providing I'd run in the name of his 
company eight or nine times — him, and an 
Oklahoma Congressman, vnih the makings of 
a bun, and one of Sandusky, Ohio's well- 
known and popular merchant princes, with a 
line of talk touching on the business revival in 
the Middle West. If that's not sHm pickings 
I don't want a cent ! Say, help an honest work- 
ing lad out — can't you.^^" 

This appeal moved the room clerk. 

"Let's see now," he said, and ran a highly 
polished fingernail down a long column of names. 
HaKway down the finger halted. 

"Here's copy for you, maybe," he said. 
"The name is Priest — WilHam Pitman Priest 
is the way he wrote it. He got in here this 
morning, an old-time Southerner; and already 
he's got every coon bellhop round the place 
fighting for a chance to wait on him. He's 
the real thing all right, I guess — looks it and 

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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 



talks it too. You ought to be able to have 
some fun with him." 

"Where's he registered from?" asked Malley 
hopefully. 

"From Kentucky — that's all; just Ken- 
tucky, mth no town given," said Mac, grin- 
ning. "There're still a few of those old 
Southerners left that'll register from a whole 
state at large. Why, there he goes now!" 
said the room clerk, and he pointed. 

Across the lobby, making slow headway 
against weaving tides of darting, hurrying 
figures, was moving a stoutish and elderly 
form clad in a fashion that made it look doubly 
and trebly strange among those marble and 
onyx precincts. A soft black hat of undoubted 
age and much shapelessness was jammed down 
upon the head, and from beneath its wide brim 
at the rear escaped wisps of thin white hair 
that curled over the upturned coat collar. The 
face the hat shaded was round and pink, chubby 
almost, and ended in a w^hite chin beard which, 
as Malley subsequently said in his story, 
flowed down its owner's chest like a point-lace 
jabot. There was an ancient caped overcoat 
of a pattern that had been fashionable perhaps 
twenty years ago and would be fashionable 
again, no doubt, twenty years hence; there 
were gray trousers that had nev-er been pressed 
apparently; and, to finish off with, there was 
a pair of box-toed, high-heeled boots of a kind 
now seen mostly in faded full-length photo- 

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graphs of gentlemen taken in the late seventies 
— boots with wrinkled tops that showed for 
four inches or more and shined clear up to the 
trouser-line with some sort of blacking that 
put a dull bluish iridescent blush upon the 
leather, almost like the colors on a dove's breast 
feathers. 

"Thanks for the tip, Mac," said Malley, 
and he made off after the old man, who by 
now had turned and was maneuvering down 
the corridor toward where a revolving door 
turned unceasingly, like a wheel in a squirrel's 
cage. *'0h, colonel!" called out Malley on a 
venture, jibing through the human currents 
and trying to overtake the stout, broad figure 
ahead of him. An exceedingly young, exceed- 
ingly important person, who looked as though 
he might be prominent in the national guard 
or on some governor's staff, half rose from a 
leather lounge and glanced about inquiringly, 
but the old man in the cape and boots kept on. 

"Major!" tried Malley vainly. " Major f 
Just a minute, please." And then, "Judge! 
Oh, judge!" he called as a last resort, and 
at that his quarry swung about on his heels 
and stopped, eying him with whimsical, mild 
blue eyes under wrinkly lids. 

"Son," he said in a high, whiny voice which 
instantly appealed to Malley 's sense of the 
picturesque, "was it me that you've been 
yelHn' at?" 

Malley answered, telling his name and his 

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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

business. A moment later he was surprised 
to find himseK shaking hands warmly with the 
older man. 

"Malley, did you say?" the judge was in- 
quiring almost eagerly. "Well, now, son, I'm 
glad to meet up with you. Malley is a fairly 
familiar name and a highly honored one down in 
our part of the country. There was a captain 
in Forrest's command of your name — Captain 
Malley — a mighty gallant soldier and a splen- 
did gentleman! You put me right sharply in 
mind of him too — seem to favor him consider- 
able round the eyes. Are you closely related 
to the Southern branch of the family, suh?" 

Malley caught himself wishing that he could 
say Yes. The old judge showed almost a 
personal disappointment when Malley con- 
fessed that none of his kinspeople, so far as 
he knew, ever resided south of Scranton, 
Pennsylvania. 

"No doubt a distant connection," amended 
the judge, as though consoKng both himself 
and Malley; "the family resemblance is there 
shorely." He laid a pudgy pink hand on 
Malley 's arm. "You'll pardon me for pre- 
sumin' on such short acquaintance, but down 
where I come from it is customary, when two 
gentlemen meet up together at about this 
hour of the evenin'" — iV was then three 
o'clock P.M., Eastern time, as Malley noted — 
**it is customary for them to take a dram. Will 
you join me?" ^ 



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Scenting his story, Malley fell into step by 
the old judge's side; but at the door of the 
cafe the judge halted him. 

"Son," he said confidentially, "I like this 
tavern mightily — all but the grocery here. 
I must admit that I don't much care for the 
bottled goods they're carry in' in stock. I 
sampled 'em and I didn't enthuse over 'em. 
They are doubtless excellent for cookin' pur- 
poses, but as beverages they sort of fall short. 

"I wish you'd go up to my chamber with 
me and give me the benefit of your best judg- 
ment on a small vial of liquor I brought with 
me in my valise. It's an eighteen-year-old 
sour mash, mellowed in the wood, and I feel 
that I can recommend it to your no doubt dis- 
criminatin' palate. Will you give me the 
pleasure of your company, suh.^" 

As Malley, smiling to himself, went with the 
judge, it struck him with emphasis that, for 
a newly arrived transient, this old man seemed 
to have an astonishingly wide acquaintance 
among the house staff of the Hotel Royal. A 
page-boy, all buttons and self-importance, side- 
stepped them, smiling and ducking at the old 
judge's nod; and the elevator attendant, a 
little, middle-aged Irishman, showed unalloyed 
pleasure when the judge, after blinking slightly 
and catching his breath as the car started up- 
ward with a dart like a scared swallow, inquired 
whether he'd had any more news yet of the 
little girl who was in the hosijital. Plainly 

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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 



the old judge and the elevator man had already 
been exchanging domestic confidences. 

Into his small room on the seventeenth floor 
Judge Priest ushered the reporter with the 
air of one dispensing the hospitalities of a 
private establishment to an honored guest, 
made him rest his hat and overcoat — "rest" 
was the word the judge used — and sit down 
in the easiest chair and make himself comfort- 
able. In response to a conversation which 
the judge had over the telephone with some 
young person of the feminine gender, whom he 
insisted on addressing as Miss Exchange, there 
presently came knocking at the door a grinning 
negro boy bearing the cracked ice, the lump 
sugar and the glasses the old judge had ordered. 
Him the judge addressed direct. 

"Look here," asked the judge, looking up 
from where he was rummaging out a flat quart 
flask from the depths of an ancient and much- 
seamed valise, "ain't you the same boy that I 
was talkin' to this mornin'.^^" 

"Yas, suh," said the boy, snickering, 
"Horace." 

"Where you came from they didn't call you 
Horace, did they?" inquired the old man. 

"Naw, suh, that they didn't," admitted 
Horace, showing all his teeth except the ex- 
tremely rearmost ones. 

"What was it they called you — Smoke or 
Rabbit?" 

"Ginger," owned up Horace delightedly, 

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and vanished, still snickering. Malley noticed 
that the coin which the old man had extracted 
from the depths of a deep pocket and tossed 
to the darky was a much smaller coin than 
guests in a big New York hotel customarily 
bestowed upon bellboys for such services 
as this; yet Horace had accepted it with 
every outward evidence of a deep and abiding 
satisfaction. 

With infinite pains and a manner almost 
reverential, as though he were handling sacred 
vessels, the old judge compiled two dark 
reddish portions which he denominated toddies. 
Malley, sipping his, found it to be a most smooth 
and tasty mixture. And as he sipped, the old 
judge, smiling blandly, bestowed himself in a 
chair, which he widely overflowed, and balanc- 
ing his own drink on the chair arm he crossed 
his booted feet and was ready, he said, to hear 
what his young friend might have to say. 

As it turned out, Malley didn't have much 
to say, except to put the questions by which a 
skilled reporter leads on the man he wants to 
talk. And the old judge was willing enough to 
talk. It was his first visit to New York; he 
had come reluctantly, at the behest of certain 
friends, upon business of a more or less private 
nature; he had taken a walk and a ride already; 
he had seen a stretch of Broadway and some 
of Fifth Avenue, and he was full of impressions 
and observations that tickled Malley cleai 
down to the core of his reportorial soul. 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 



So Malley, like the wise newspaper man he 
was, threw away his notes on the Brazilian 
rubber magnate and the merchant prince of 
Sandusky; and at dark he went back to the 
office and wrote the story of old Judge Priest, 
of Kentucky, for a full column and a quarter. 
Boss Clark, the night city editor, saw the humor 
value of the story before he had run through 
the first paragraph; and he played it up hard 
on the second page of the Sun, mth a regular 
Sun head over it. 

It was by way of being a dull time of news 
in New York. None of the wealthiest families 
was marrying or giving in marriage; more 
remarkable still, none of them was divorcmg 
or giving in di^^orce. No subway scandal was 
emerging drippingly from the bowels of the 
earth; no aviator was descending abruptly 
from aloft with a dull and lethal thud. Malley 's 
stt)ry, with the personality of the old judge deftly 
set forward as a foil for his homely simplicity 
and small-town philosophy, arched across the 
purview of divers saddened city editors like a 
rainbow spanning a leadish sky. The craft, 
in the vernacular of the craft, saw the story 
and went to it. Inside of twenty-four hours 
Judge Priest, of Kentucky, was Broadway's 
reigning favorite, for publicity purposes anyhow. 
The free advertising he got could not have been 
measured in dollars and cents if a prima donna 
had been getting it. 

The judge kept open house all that next day 

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in his room at the Hotel Royal, receiving regular 
and special members of various city staffs. 
Margaret Movine, the star lady writer of the 
Evening Journal, had a full-page interview, 
in which the judge, using the Southern accent 
as it is spoken in New York exclusively, was 
made to discuss, among other things, the suffra- 
gette movement, women smoking in public, 
Fifth Avenue, hobble skirts, Morgan's raid, 
and the iniquity of putting sugar in corn bread. 
The dialect was the talented Miss Margaret 
Movine's, but the thoughts and the words 
were the judge's, faithfully set forth. The 
Times gave him a set of jingles on its editorial 
page and the Evening Mail followed up v,dth 
a couple of humorous paragraphs; but it was 
the Sunday World that scored heaviest. 

McCartwell, of the Sunday, went up and 
secured from the judge his own private recipe 
for mint juleps — a recipe which the judge 
said had been in his family for three generations 
— and he thought possibly longer, it having 
been brought over the mountains and through 
the Gap from Virginia by a grandsire who didn't 
bring much of anything else of great value; 
and the World, printing this recipe and using 
it as a starter, conducted through its correspond- 
ents southward a telegraphic symposium of 
mint-julep recipes. Private John Allen, of 
Mississippi; Colonel Bill Sterritt, of Texas; 
Marse Henry W^atterson and General Simon 
Bolivar Buckner, of Kentucky; Senator Bob 



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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

Taylor, of Tennessee, and others, contributed. 
A dispute at once arose in the South concerning 
the relative merits of mint bruised and mint 
crushed. An old gentleman in Virginia wrote 
an indignant letter to the Richmond Times- 
Dispatch — he said it should be bruised only — 
and a personal misunderstanding between two 
veteran members of the Pendennis Club, of 
Louisville, was with difficulty averted by by- 
standers. For the American, Tom Powers 
drew a cartoon showing the old judge, with a 
julep in his hand, marching through the Pro- 
hibition belt of the South, accompanied by a 
procession of jubilant Joys, while hordes of 
disconcerted Glooms fled ahead of them across 
the map. 

In short, for the better part of a week Judge 
Priest was a celebrity, holding the limehght to 
the virtual exclusion of grand opera stars, 
favorite sons, white hopes, debutantes and 
contributing editors of the Outlook Magazine. 
And on the fourth day the judge, sitting in the 
privacy of his chamber and contemplating his 
sudden prominence, had an idea — and this 
idea was the answer to a question he had 
been asking himself many times since he left 
home. He spent half an hour and seventy 
cents telephoning to various newspaper offices. 
When finally he hung up. the receiver and 
wriggled into his caped overcoat a benevolent 
smile illumined his broad, pink face. The 
smile still lingered there as he climbed into a 

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cab at the curb and gave the driver a certain 
Wall Street address, which was the address of 
one J. Hayden Witherbee. 

• ••••••• 

J. Hayden Witherbee, composing the firm 
of Witherbee & Company, brokers and bankers, 
had a cozy flytrap or office suite in one of the 
tallest and most ornate of the office buildings 
or spider-webs in the downtown financial 
district. This location was but a natural one, 
seeing that Mr. J. Hayden Witherbee's interests 
were widely scattered and diversified, including 
as they did the formation and construction — 
on paper and with paper — of trolley lines; the 
floating of various enterprises, which floated 
the more easily by reason of the fact that water 
was their native element; and the sale of what 
are known in the West as holes in the ground 
and in the East as permanent mining invest- 
ments. He rode to and from business in a 
splendid touring car trained to stop auto- 
matically at at least three cafes on the way up 
town of an evening; and he had in his employ 
a competent staff, including a grayish gentle- 
man of a grim and stolid aspect, named Betts. 

Being a man of affairs, and many of them, 
Mr. Witherbee had but small time for general 
newspaper reading, save and except only the 
market quotations, the baseball scores in season 
and the notices of new shows for tired business 
men, though keeping a weather eye ever out for 
stories touching on the pernicious activities of 

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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

the Federal Grand Jury, with its indictments 
and summonses and warrants, and of the 
United States Post-Office Department, with 
its nasty habit of issuing fraud orders and 
tying up valuable personal mail. Neverthe- 
less, on a certain wintry afternoon about two 
o'clock or half -past two, when his office boy 
brought to him a small card, engraved — no, 
not engraved; printed — smudgily printed with 
the name of William Pitman Priest and the 
general address of Kentucky, the sight of the 
card seemed to awaken within him certain 
amusing stories which had lately fallen under 
his attention in the printed columns; and, since 
he never overlooked any bets — even the small 
ones — he told the boy to show the gentleman 
in. 

The reader, I take it, being already ac- 
quainted with the widely varying conver- 
sational characteristics of Judge Priest and 
Mr. J. Hayden Witherbee, it would be but 
a waste of space and time for me to under- 
take to describe in detail the manner of their 
meeting on this occasion. Suffice it to say 
that the judge was shown into Mr. J. Hayden 
Witherbee's private office; that he introduced 
himself, shook hands with Mr. Witherbee, and 
in response to an invitation took a seat; after 
which he complimented IVir. Witherbee upon 
the luxury and good taste of his surroundings, 
and remarked that it was seasonable weather, 
considering the Northern climate and the time 

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of the year. And then, being requested to state 
the nature of his business, he told Mr. Witherbee 
he had called in the hope of interesting him in 
an industrial property located in the South. 
It was at this juncture that Mr. Witherbee 
pressed a large, dark cigar upon his visitor. 

"Yes," said Mr. Witherbee, "we have been 
operating somewhat extensively in the South 
of late, and we are always on the lookout for 
desirable properties of almost any character. 
Er — where is this particular property you 
speak of located and what is its nature.^" 

When Judge Priest named the town Mr. 
Witherbee gave a perceptible start, and when 
Judge Priest followed up this disclosure by 
stating that the property in question was a 
gasworks plant which he, holding power of 
attorney and full authority to act, desired to 
sell to Mr. Witherbee, complete with equip- 
ment, accounts, franchise and good \sall, JVir. 
Witherbee showed a degree of heat and excite- 
ment entirely out of keepmg with the calmness 
and deliberation of Judge Priest's remarks. 
He asked Judge Priest what he — the judge — 
took him — Witherbee — for anyhow.^ Judge 
Priest, still speaking slowly and choosing his 
words with care, then told him — and that 
only seemed to add to Mr. Witherbee's state 
of warmth. However, Judge Priest drawled 
right on. 

"Yes, suh," he contmued placidly, "ac- 
cordin' to the best of my knowledge and belief, 

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STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

you are in the business of buy in' and sellin' 
such things as gasworks, and so I've come to 
you to sell you this here one. You have personal 
knowledge of the plant, I believe, havin' been 
on the ground recently." 

"Say," demanded Mr. Witherbee with a 
forced grin — a grin that vvould have reminded 
you of a man drawing a knife — "say, w^hat 
do you think you're trying to slip over on me.^ 
I did go to your measly Kttle one-horse town 
and I spent more than a week there; and I did 
look over your broken-down little old gashouse, 
and I concluded that I didn't want it; and 
then I came aw^ay. That's the kind of a man 
I am — when I'm through with a thing I'm 
through with it! Huh! What would I do 
with those gasworks if I bought 'em.?" 

"That, suh, is a most pertinent point," 
said Judge Priest, "and I'm glad you brought 
it up early. In case, after buy in' this property, 
you do not seem to care greatly for it, I am 
empowered to buy it back from you at a suitable 
figure. For example, I am willin' to sell it to 
you for sixty thousand dollars; and then, pro- 
vidin' you should want to sell it back to me, 
I stand prepared to take it off your hands at 
twenty-six thousand five hundred. I name 
those figures, suh, because those are the figures 
that w^ere lately employed in connection with 
the proposition." 

" Blackmail — huh ! " sneered INIr. With- 
erbee. "Cheap blackmail and nothing eW 

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Well, I took you for a doddering old pappy 
guy; but you're a bigger rube even than I 
thought. Now you get out of here before you 
get thrown out — see?" 

"Now there you go, son — fixin' to lose 
your temper already," counseled the old judge 
reprovingly. 

But Mr. Witherbee had already lost it — • 
completely lost it. He jumped up from his 
desk as though contemplating acts of violence 
upon the limbs and body of the broad, stoutish 
old man sitting in front of him; but he sheered 
off. Though old Judge Priest's lips kept right 
on smiling, his eyelids puckered down into a 
disconcerting httle squint; and between them 
little menacing blue gleams fhckered. Anyway, 
personal brawls, even in the sanctity of one's 
oflSce, were very bad form and sometimes led 
to that publicity which is so distasteful to one 
engaged in large private enterprises. Mr» 
Witherbee had known the truth of this when 
his name had been Watkins and when it had 
been the Bland Brothers' Investment Company, 
Limited; and he knew it now when he was 
Witherbee & Company. So, as aforesaid, he 
sheered off. Retreating to his desk, he felt 
for a button. A buzzer whirred dimly in the 
wall like a rattlesnake's tail. An officeboy 
poked his head in instantly. 

"Herman," ordered Mr. Witherbee, trem- 
bling with his passion, "you go down to the 
superintendent's oflBice and tell him to send 

[«38] 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

a special building officer here to me right 
away!" 

The boy's head vanished, and Mr. Wither- 
bee swung back again on the judge, wagging a 
threatening forefinger at him. 

"Do you know what I'm going to do?" 
he asked. "Well, I'll tell you what I'm going 
to do — I'm going to have you chucked out 
of here bodily — that's what!" 

But he couldn't keep the quaver out of the 
threat. Somehow he was developing a growing 
fear of this imperturbable old man. 

"Now, son," said Judge Priest, who hadn't 
moved, "I wouldn't do that if I was you. It 
might not be so healthy for you." 

"Oh, you needn't be trying any of your 
cheap Southern gunplays round here," warned 
Mr. Witherbee; but, in spite of his best 
efforts at control, his voice rose quivering at 
the suggestion. 

"Bless your heart, son!" said the judge 
soothingly, "I wouldn't think of usin' a gun 
on you any more'n I'd think of takin' a Win- 
chester rifie to kill one of these here cock- 
roaches! Son," he said, rising now for the 
first time, "you come along here with me a 
minute — I want to show you something you 
ain't seen yet." 

He walked to the door and opened it part 
way. Witherbee, wondering and apprehensive, 
followed him and looked over the old judge's 
shoulder into the anteroom. 

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For J. Hayden Witherbee, one quick glance 
was enough. Four — no, five — five alert- 
looking young men, all plainly marked \\^th 
the signs of a craft abhorrent to Mr. Witherbee, 
sat in a row of chairs beyond a railing; and 
beyond them was a sixth person, a young 
woman vfith a tiptilted nose and a pair of 
inquisitive, expectant gray eyes. INir. With- 
erbee would have known them anywhere by 
their backs — jackals of the press, muckrakers, 
sworn enemies to IMr. Witherbee and all his 
kith and kind! 

It was Mr. Witherbee who slammed the 
door shut, drawing Judge Priest back mto the 
shelter of the closed room; and it was IVIr. 
Witherbee who made inquii-y, tremulously, 
almost humbly: 

"WTiat does this mean.^ What are these 
people doing there? What game is this.^" 
He sputtered out the words, one question over- 
lapping the next. 

"Son," said Judge Priest, "you seem flus- 
tered. Ca'm yourself. This is no game as I 
know of. These are merely friends of mine — 
representatives of the daily press of your city.'* 
"But how did they come to be here.^" 
"Oh!" said the judge. "\^Tiy, I tele- 
phoned 'em. I telephoned 'em that I was 
comin' down here on a matter of business, 
and that maybe there might be a sort of an 
item for them if they'd come too. I've been 
makin' what they call copy for them, and we're 

[2401 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 



all mighty sociable and friendly; and so they 
came right along. To tell you the truth, we 
all arrived practically together. You see, if 
I was sort of shoved out of here against my 
will and maybe mussed up a Httle those boys 
and that there young lady there — her name 
is Miss Margaret Mo vine — they'd be sure to 
put pieces in their papers about it; and if it 
should come out incidentally that the cause of 
the row was a certain gasworks transaction, 
in a certain town domi in Kentucky, they'd 
probably print that too. Why, those young 
fellows would print anything almost if I wanted 
them to. You'd be surprised! 

"Yes, suh, you'd be surprised to see how 
much they'd print for me," he went on, tappmg 
J. Hayden Witherbee upon his agitated chest 
with a blunt forefinger. "I'll bet you they'd 
go into the full details." 

As Mr. Witherbee listened, Mr. Witherbee 
perspired freely. At this very moment there 
were certain transactions pending throughout 
the country — he had a telegram in his desk 
now from Betts, sent from a small town in 
Alabama — and newspaper publicity of an 
unpleasant and intimate nature might be fatal 
in the extreme. INIr. Witherbee had a mind 
trained to act quickly. 

"Wait a minute!" he said, mopping his 
brow and wetting his lips, they being the only 
dry things about him. "Wait a minute, please. 
If we could settle this — this matter — just 



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between ourselves, quietly — and peaceably 
— there wouldn't be anything to print — 
would there?" 

*'As I understand the ethics of your Eastern 
joumaHsm, there wouldn't be anything to 
print," said Judge Priest. "The price of them 
gasworks, accordin' to the latest quotations, 
was sixty thousand — but liable to advance 
without notice." 

"And what — what did you say you'd buy 
'em back at?" 

"Twenty-six thousand five hundred was the 
last price," said the judge, "but subject to 
further shrinkage almost any minute." 

"I'll trade," said Mr. Witherbee. 

"Much obliged to you, son," said Judge 
Priest gratefully, and he began fumbling in his 
breast pocket. "I've got the papers all made 
out." 

Mr. Witherbee regained his desk and reached 
for a checkbook just as the officeboy poked his 
head in again. 

"Special officer's comin' right away, sir," 
he said. 

"Tell him to go away and keep away," 
snarled the flurried Mr. Witherbee; "and 
you keep that door shut — tight! Shall I 
make the check out to you?" he asked the 
judge. 

"Well, now, I wouldn't care to bother with 
checks," said the judge. "All the recent 
transactions involvin' this here gashouse prop- 



<( 



*t 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

erty was by the medium of the common cur- 
rency of the country, and I wouldn't care to 
undertake on my own responsibiHty to interfere 
with a system that has worked heretofore with 
such satisfaction. I'll take the difference in 
cash — if you don't mind." 

"But I can't raise that much cash now," 
whined Witherbee. "I haven't that much 
in my safe. I doubt if I could get it at my 
bank on such short notice." 

"I know of a larger sum bein' gathered 
together in a much smaller community than 
this — oncet!" said the judge reminiscently. 
I would suggest that you try." 

"I'll try," said IVIr. Witherbee desperately. 
I'll send out for it — on second thought, I 
guess I can raise it." 

"I'll wait," said the judge; and he took 
his seat again, but immediately got up and 
started for the door. "I'll ask the boys and 
Miss Margaret Movine to wait too," he ex- 
plained. "You see, I'm leavin' for my home 
tomorrow and we're all goin' to have a little 
farewell blowout together tonight." 

Upon Malley, who in confidence had heard 
enough from the judge to put two and two 
together and guess something of the rest, there 
was beginnuig to dawn a conviction that behind 
Judge William Pitman Priest's dovelike sim- 
pHcity there lurked some part of the wisdom 
that has been commonly attributed to the 



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serpent of old. His reporter's instinct sensed 
out a good story in it, too, but his pleadings 
with the old judge to stay over for one more day, 
anyhow, were not altogether based on a pro- 
fessional foundation. They were in large part 
personal. 

Judge Priest, caressing a certificate of deposit 
in a New York bank doing a large Southern 
business, insisted that he had to go. So Malley 
went with him to the ferry and together they 
stood on the deck of the ferryboat, saying good- 
by. For the twentieth time Malley was prom- 
ising the old man that in the spring he would 
surely come to Kentucky and visit him. And 
at the time he meant it. 

In front of them as they faced the shore 
loomed up the tall buildings, rising jaggedly 
like long dog teeth in Manhattan's lower jaw. 
There were pennons of white steam curling 
from their eaves. The Judge's puckered eyes 
took in the picture, from the crowded streets 
below to the wintry blue sky above, where 
mackerel-shaped white clouds drifted by, all 
aiming the same way, like a school of silver 
fish. 

"Son," he was saying, "I don't know when 
I've enjoyed anything more than this here little 
visit, and I'm beholden to you boys for a lot. 
It's been pleasant and it's been profitable, and 
I'm proud that I met up with all of you." 

"When will you be coming back, judge?'* 
asked Malley. 

[244 J ..' 



STRATAGEM AND SPOILS 

"Well, that I don't know," admitted the 
old judge. "You see, son, I'm gettin' on in 
years considerably; and it's sort of a hard 
trip from away down where I live plum' up 
here to New York. As a matter of fact," 
he went on, "this was the third time in my 
life that I started for this section of the country. 
The first time I started was with General 
Albert Sidney Johnston and a lot of others; 
but, owin' to meetin' up with your General 
Grant at a place called Pittsburg Landing by 
your people and Shiloh by ours, we sort of 
altered our plans. Later on I started again, 
bein' then temporarily in the company of 
General John Morgan, of my own state; and 
that time we got as far as the southern part 
of the state of Ohio before we run into certain 
insurmountable obstacles; but this time I 
managed to git through. I was forty-odd 
years doin' it — but I done it ! And, son," 
he called out as the ferryboat began to quiver 
and Malley stepped ashore, "I don't mind 
tellin' you in strict confidence that while the 
third Confederate invasion of the North was 
a long time gittin' under way, it proved a most 
complete success in every particular when it 
did. Give my best reguards to Miss Margaret 
Movine." 



[^^1 



VIII 

THE MOB FROM MASSAC 



YOU might call it a tragedy — this thing 
that came to pass down in our country 
here a few years back. For that was 
exactly what it was — a tragedy, and 
in its way a big one. Yet at the time nobody 
thought of calling it by any nam.e at all. It 
was just one of those shifts that are inevitably 
bound to occur in the local politics of a county 
or a district; and when it did come, and was 
through and over with, most people accepted 
it as a matter of course. 

There were some, however, it left jarred ard 
dazed and bewildered — yes, and helpless too; 
men too old to readjust their altered fortunes 
to their altered conditions even if they had the 
spirit to try, which they hadn't. Take old 
Major J. Q. A. Pickett now. Attaching himseK 
firmly to a certain spot at the far end of SherrilFs 
bar, with one leg hooked up over the brass bar- 
rail — a leg providentially foreshortened b}' a 
Minie ball at Shiloh, as if for that very purpose 

[246] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

— the major expeditiously drank himself to 
death in a little less than four years, which was 
an exceedingly short time for the job, seeing 
he had always been a most hale and hearty 
old person, though grown a bit gnarly and 
skewed with the coming on of age. The major 
had been county clerk ever since Reconstruc- 
tion; he was a gentleman and a scholar and 
could quote Latin and Sir Walter Scott's 
poetry by the running yard. Toward the last 
he quoted them with hiccups and a stutter. 

Also there was Captain Andy J. Redcliffe, 
who was sheriff three terms handrunnmg and, 
before that, chief of police. Going out of office 
he went into the livery-stable business; but 
he didn't seem to make much headway against 
the Farrell Brothers, who owned the other Hvery 
stable and were younger men and spry and alert 
to get trade. He spent a few months sitting 
at the front door of his yawning, half-empty 
stables, nursing a grudge against nearly every- 
thing and plaintively garrulous on the subject 
of the ingratitude of republics in general and 
this republic in particular; and presently he 
sickened of one of those mysterious diseases 
that seem to attack elderly men of a full habit 
of life and to rob them of their health without 
denuding them of their flesh. His fat sagged 
on his bones in unwholesome, bloated folds 
and he wallowed unsteadily when he walked. 
One morning one of his stable hands found 
him dead in his office, and the Gideon K. Irons 

[247] 



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Camp turned out and gave him a comrade's 
funeral, with full military honors. 

Also there were two or three others, including 
ex-County Treasurer Whitford, who shot him- 
self through the head when a busy and con- 
scientious successor found in his accounts a 
seeming shortage of four hundred and eighty 
dollars, which afterward turned out to be more 
a mistake in bookkeeping than anything else. 
Yet these men — all of them — might have 
seen what was coming had they watched. The 
storm that wrecked them was a long time mak- 
ing up — four years before it had threatened 
them. 

There had grown up a younger generation of 
men who complained — and perhaps they had 
reason for the complaint — that they did nearly 
all the work of organizing and campaigning 
and furnished most of the votes to carry the 
elections, while a close combine of aging, fussy, 
autocratic old men held all the good county 
offices and fatted themselves on the spoils of 
county politics. These mutterings of discon- 
tent found shape in a sort of semi-organized 
revolt against the county ring, as the young 
, fellows took to calling it, and for the county 
, primary they made up a strong ticket among 
themselves — a ticket that included two smart 
young law^^ers who could talk on their feet, 
and a popular young farmer for sheriff, and a 
live young harnessmaker as a representative of 
union labor, which was beginning to be a 

[248] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

recognized force in the community with the 
coming of the two big tanneries. They made 
a hard fight of it, too, campaigning at every 
fork in the big road and every country store 
and blacksmith shop, and spouting arguments 
and oratory hke so many inspired human 
spigots. Their elderly opponents took things 
easier. They rode about in top buggies and 
democrat wagons from barbecue to rally and 
from rally to schoolhouse meeting, steadfastly 
refusing the challenges of the younger men for 
a series of joint debates and contenting them- 
selves with talking over old days with fading, 
grizzled men of their own generation. These 
elders, in turn, talked with their sons and sons- 
in-law and their nephews and neighbors; and 
so, when the primaries came, the young men's 
ticket stood beaten — but not by any big 
margin. It was close enough to be very close. 
"Well, they've licked us this time!" said 
Dabney Prentiss, who afterward went to Con- 
gress from the district and made a brilliant 
record there. Dabney Prentiss had been the 
younger element's candidate for circuit-court 
judge against old Judge Priest. "They've 
licked us and the Lord only knows how they 
did it. Here we thought we had 'em out- 
organized, outgeneraled and outnumbered. All 
they did was to go out in th^ back districts and 
beat the bushes, and out crawled a lot of old 
men that everybody else thought were dead 
twenty years ago. I think they must hide 

[249] 



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imder logs in the woods and only come out to 
vote. But, fellows" — he was addressing some 
of his companions in disappointment — "but, 
fellows, we can afford to wait and they can't. 
The day is going to come when it'll take some- 
thing more than shaking an empty sleeve or 
weaving a crippled old leg to carry an election 
in this county. Young men keep growing up 
all the time, but all that old men can do is to die 
off. Four years from now we'll win sure!" 

The four years went by, creakingly slow of 
passage to some and rolling fast to others; and 
in the summer of the fourth year another 
campaign started up and grew hot and hotter 
to match the weather, which was blazing hot. 
The August drought came, an arid and a blister- 
ing visitation. Except at dusk and at dawn 
the birds quit singing and hung about in the 
thick treetops, silent and nervous, wath their 
bills agape and their throat feathers panting 
up and do'v\Ti. The roasting ears burned to 
death on the stalk and the wide fodder blades 
slowly cooked from sappy greenness to a brittle 
dead brown. The clods in the cornrows were 
dry as powder and gave no nourishment for 
growing, ripening things. The dust powdered 
the blackberry vines until they lost their 
original color altogether, and at the roadside 
the medicinal mullein drooped its wilted long 
leaves, like lolling tongues that were all furred 
and roiled, as though the mullein suffered from 
the very fevers that its steeped juices are pre- 

[250] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 



sumed to cure. At its full the moon shone hot 
and red, with two rings round it; and the two 
rings always used to mean water in our country 
— two rings for drinking water at the hotel, 
and for rainwater two rings round the moon — 
but week after week no rain fell and the face of 
the earth just seemed to dry up and blow away. 
Yet the campaign neither lost its edge nor 
abated any of its fervor by reason of the weather. 
Politics was the chief diversion and the main 
excitement in our county in those days — and 
still is. 

One morning near the end of the month a 
dust-covered man on a sorely spent horse 
galloped in from Massac Creek, down in the 
far edge of the county; and when he had changed 
horses at Farrell Brothers' and started back 
again there went with him the sheriff, both 
of his deputies and tv/o of the town policemen, 
the sheriff taking with him in his buckboard 
a pair of preternaturally grave dogs of a reddish- 
brown aspect, with long, drooping ears, and 
long, sad, stupid faces and eyes like the chief 
mourners' at a funeral. They were blood- 
hounds, imported at some cost from a kennel 
in Tennessee and reputed to be marvelously 
wise in the tracking dovra of criminals. By 
the time the posse Vs^as a mile away and headed 
for Massac a story had spread through the 
town that made men grit their teeth and sent 
certain armed and mounted volunteers hurrying 
iTtTL to ]om tne maiinunt. 

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Late that same afternoon a team of blown 
horses, wet as though they had wallowed in the 
river and drawing a top buggy, panted up to 
the little red-brick jail, which stood on the 
county square alongside the old wooden white 
courthouse, and halted there. Two men — 
a constable and a deputy sheriff — sat back 
under the overhanging top of the buggy, and 
between them something small was crushed, 
huddled down on the seat and almost hidden 
by their broad figures. They were both yel- 
lowed with the dust of a hard drive. It lay 
on their shoulders like powdered sulphur and 
was gummed to their eyelashes, so that when 
they batted their eyelids to clear their sight it 
gave them a grotesque, clownish look. They 
climbed laboriously out and stretched their 
limbs. 

The constable hurried stiffly up the short 
gravel path to the jail and rapped on the door 
and called out something. The deputy sheriff 
reached in under the buggy top and hauled 
out a little negro, skinny and slight and seem- 
ingly not over eighteen years old. He hauled 
him out as though he was handling a sack of 
grits, and the negro came out like a sack of 
grits and fell upon his face on the pavement, 
almost between the buggy wheels. His wrists 
were held together by a pair of iron handcuffs 
heavy enough to fetter a bear, and for further 
precaution his legs had been hobbled wath a 
plowline, and his arms were tied back with 

[252] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 



another length of the plowhne that passed 
through his elbows and was knotted behind. 
The deputy stooped, took a grip on the rope 
across the prisoner's back and heaved him up 
to his feet. He was ragged, barefooted and 
bareheaded and his face was covered with a 
streaky clayish-yellow caking, where the sweat 
had run down and wetted the dust layers. 
Through this muddy mask his pop-eyes stared 
with a dulled animal terror. 

Thus yanked upright the little negro swayed 
on his feet, shrinkmg up his shoulders and 
lurching in his tethers. Then his glazed stare 
fell on the barred windows and the hooded 
door of the jail, and he realized where he had 
been brought and hurried toward it as toward 
a welcome haven, stretching his legs as far as 
the ropes sawing on his naked ankles would 
let him. Willing as he was, however, he col- 
lapsed altogether as he reached the door and 
lay on his face kinking and twisting up in his 
bonds like a stricken thing. The deputy and 
the constable dragged him up roughly, one 
lifting him by his arm bindings and the other 
by the ropes on his legs, and they pitched him 
in flat on the floor of the little jail office. He 
wriggled himself under a table and lay there, 
sniffling out his fear and relief. His tongue 
hung out of his mouth like the tongue of a tied 
calf, and he panted with choky, slobbering 
sounds. 

The deputy sheriff and the constable left 

[£53] 



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him lying and went to a water bucket in the 
corner and drank down brimming dippers, turn 
and turn about, as though their thirst was 
unslakable. It was Dink Bynum, the deputy 
jailer, who had admitted them and in the 
absence of his superior he was in charge solely. 
He waited until the two had lowered the water 
line in the cedar bucket by a matter of inches. 

"Purty quick work, boys," he said pro- 
fessionally, "if this is the right nigger." 

"I guess there ain't much doubt about him 
bein' the right one," said the constable, whose 
name was Quarles. "Is there, Gus.^" he 
added. 

"No doubt at all in my mind," said the 
deputy. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, 
which smeared the dust across his face in a 
sort of pattern. 

"How'd you fellers come to git him.?" asked 
Bynum. 

"Well," said the deputy, "we got out to the 
Hampton place about dinner time I reckin it 
was. Every man along the creek and every 
boy that was big enough to tote a gun was out 
scourin' the woods and there w^asn't nobody 
round the place exceptin' a passel of the women- 
folks. Just over the fence where the nigger 
was s'posed to have crossed we found his old 
wool hat layin' right where he'd run out from 
under it and we let the dogs smell of it, and 
inside of five minutes they'd picked up a trail 
and was openin' out on it. It was monstrous 

[254] 



THE MOB FROM .MASSAC 

liot going through them thick bottoms afoot, 
and me and Quarles here outrun the sheriff 
and the others. Four miles back of Florence 
Station, and not more'n a mile from the river, 
we found this nigger treed up a hackberry with 
the dogs bayin' under him. I figure he'd been 
hidin' out in the woods all night and was makin' 
for the river, aimin' to cross, when the dogs 
fetched up behind him and made him take to 
a tree." 

"Did you carry him back for the girl to 
see?'' 

"No," said the deputy sheriff. "Me and 
Quarles we talked it over after we'd got him 
down and had him roped up. In the first place 
she v/asn't in no condition to take a look at him, 
and besides we knowed that them Massac 
people jest natchelly wouldn't listen to nothin' 
oncet they laid eyes on him. They'd 'a' tore 
him apart bodily." 

The bound figure on the floor began moan- 
ing in a steady, dead monotone, with his lips 
against the planldng. 

"So, bein' as me and Quarles wanted the 
credit for bringin' him in, not to mention the 
reward," went on the deputy, without a glance 
at the moaning negro, "v/e decided not to take 
no chances. I kept him out of sight until 
Quarles could go over to the river and borrow 
a rig, and we driv in \vith him by the lower road, 
acrost the iron bridge, without goin' anywhere 
near Massac." 

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"What does the nigger say for himself?'* 
asked Bynum, greedy for all the details. 

"Huh!" said the deputy. "He's been too 
scared to say much of anything. Says he'd 
tramped up here from below the state line and 
was makin' for Ballard County, lookin' for 
a job of work. He's a strange nigger all right. 
And he as good as admits he was right near the 
Hampton place yistiddy evenin' at milkin' 
time, when the girl was laywaid, and says he 
only run because the dogs took out after him 
and scared him. But here he is. We've done 
our duty and dehvered him, and now if the 
boys out yonder on Massac want to come in 
and take him out that's their lookout and yourn. 
Dink." 

"I reckon you ain't made no mistake," said 
Bynum. Cursing softly under his breath he 
walked over and spurned the prisoner with his 
heavy foot. The negro WTithed under the 
pressure like a crushed insect. The under jailer 
looked down at him with a curious tautening 
of his heavy features. 

"The papers call 'em burly black brutes,'* 
he said, "and I never seen one of 'em yit that 
was more'n twenty years old or run over a 
hundred and thirty pound." He raised his 
voice: "Jim — oh, Jim!" 

An inner door of sheet-iron opened with a 
suspicious instantaneousness, and in the open- 
ing appeared a black jail trusty, a confirmed 
chicken thief. He ducked his head in turn 

[ 256 ] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

toward each of the white men, carefuhy keep- 
ing his uneasy gaze away from the Httle negro 
lying between the table legs in the corner. 

"Yas, suh, boss — right here, suh," said 
the trusty. 

"Here, Jim" — the deputy jailer was opening 
his pocketknife and passing it over — "take 
and cut them ropes off that nigger's arms and 
laigs." 

With a ludicrous alacrity the trusty obeyed. 

"Now pull him up on his feet!" commanded 
Bynum. "I guess we might as well leave them 
cuffs on him — eh.^^" he said to the deputy 
sheriff. The deputy nodded. Bynum took 
down from a peg over the jailer's desk a ring 
bearing many jingling keys of handwrought iron. 
"Bring him in here, Jim," he bade the trusty. 

He stepped through the inner door and the 
negro Jim followed him, steering the manacled 
little negro. Quarles, the constable, and the 
deputy sheriff tagged behind to see their catch 
properly caged. They went along a short corri- 
dor, filled with a stifling, baked heat and heavy 
with the smell of penned-iip creatures. There 
were faces at the barred doors of the cells that 
lined one side of this corridor — all black or 
yellow faces except one white one; and from 
these cells came no sound at all as the three 
white men and the two negroes passed. Only 
the lone white prisoner spoke out. 

"Who is he. Dink?" he called eagerly^ 
"'What^shedone.^" 

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"Shut up!" ordered his keeper briefly, and 
that was the only answer he made. At the 
far end of the passage Bynum turned a key in 
a creaky lock and threw back the barred door 
of an inner cell, sheathed with iron and lack- 
ing a window. The trusty shoved in the little 
handcuffed negro and the negro groveled on the 
wooden floor upon all fours. Bynum locked 
the door and the three white men tramped 
back through the silent corridor, followed by 
the sets of white eyes that stared out unwink- 
ingly at them through the iron-latticed grills. 
It was significant that from the time of the 
arrival at the jail not one of the whites had 
laid his hands actually upon the prisoner. 

"Well, boys," said Bynum to the others by 
way of a farewell, "there he is and there he'll 
stay — unless them Massac Creek folks come 
and git him. You've done your sworn duty 
and I've done mine. I locked him up and I 
won't be responsible for what happens now. 
I know this much — I ain't goin' to git myself 
crippled up savin' that nigger. If a mob wants 
to come let 'em come on!" 

No mob came from Massac that night or the 
next night either; and on the second day there 
was a big basket picnic and rally under a brush 
arbor at the Shady Grove schoolhouse — the 
biggest meeting of the whole campaign it was 
to be, with speaking, and the silver cornet 
band out from town to make music, and the 
oldest living Democrat in the county sitting 

[258] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

■^■■■ii""""^"""— ^— ^— ■^— — ■— — ^■^^— "■— ^■— ^■— »".^— •^— — — ^— — «ii^™«««i«^™«i«i» 

on the platform, and all that. Braving the 
piled-on layers of heat that rode the parched 
country like witch-hags haK the town went to 
Shady Grove. Nearly everybody went that 
could travel. All the morning wagons and 
buggies were clattering out of town, headed 
toward the west. And in the cooking dead 
calm of the midafternoon the mob from Massac 
came. 

They came by roundabout ways, avoiding 
those main traveled roads over which the crowds 
were gathering in toward the common focus 
of the Shady Grove schoolhouse; and comiag 
so, on horseback by twos and threes, and leav- 
ing their horses in a thicket half a mile out, 
they were able to reach the edge of the town 
unnoticed and unsuspected. The rest, their 
leader figured, would be easy. A mistake in 
judgment by the town fathers in an earlier day 
had put the public square near the northern 
boundary, and the town, iastead of growing 
up to it, grew away from it in the opposite 
direction, so that the square stood well beyond 
the thickly settled district. 

All things had worked out well for their 
purpose. The sheriff and the jailer, both 
candidates for renomination, were at Shady 
Grove, and the sheriff had all his deputies with 
him, electioneering for their .own jobs and his. 
Legal Row, the little street of lawyers' offices 
back of the square, might have been a byroad 
in old Pompeii for all the life that showed along 

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its short and simmering length. No idlers 
lay under the water maples and the red oaks 
in the square. The jail baked in the sunlight, 
silent as a brick tomb, which indeed it some- 
what resembled; and on the wide portico of the 
courthouse a loafer dog of remote hound ante- 
cedents alternately napped and roused to snap 
at the buzzing flies. The door of the clerk's 
office stood agape and through the opening 
came musty, snuffy smells of old leather and 
dry -rotted deeds. The wide hallway that ran 
from end to end of the old building was empty 
and echoed like a cave to the frequent thump 
of the loafer dog's leg joints upon the planking. 
Indeed, the whole place had but a single 
occupant. In his office back of the circuit- 
court room Judge Priest was asleep, tilted back 
in a swivel chair, with his short, plump legs 
propped on a table and his pudgy hands locked 
across his stomach, which gently rose and fell 
with his breathing. His straw hat was on the 
table, and in a corner leaned his inevitable 
traveling companion in summer weather — 
a vast and cavernous umbrella of a pattern 
that is probably obsolete now, an unkempt 
old drab slattern of an umbrella with a crackec" 
wooden handle and a crippled rib that dangled 
away from its fellows as though shamed by its 
afflicted state. The campaigning had been 
hard on the old judge. The Monday before, 
at a rally at Temple's Mills, he had fainted, 
and this day he hadn't felt equal to going to 

[260] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

Shady Grove. Instead he had come to his 
office after dinner to write some letters and had 
fallen asleep. He slept on for an hour, a picture 
of pink and cherubic old age, with little head- 
ings of sweat popping out thickly on his high 
bald head and a gentle little snoring sound, of 
first a drone and then a whistle, pouring steadily 
from his pursed lips. 

Outside a dry-fly rasped the brooding silence 
up and down with its fret-saw refrain. In the 
open spaces the little heat waves danced like 
so many stress marks, accenting the warmth 
and giving emphasis to it; and far down the 
street, which ran past the courthouse and the 
jail and melted into a country road so imper- 
ceptibly that none knew exactly where the 
street left off and the road began, there ap- 
peared a straggling, irregular company of men 
marching, their shapes more than half hid in 
a dust column of their own raising. The 
Massac men were coming. 

I believe there is a popular conception to the 
effect that an oncoming mob invariably utters 
a certain indescribable, sinister, muttering 
sound that is peculiar to mobs. For all I know 
that may be true of some mobs, but certain it 
was that this mob gave vent to no such sounds. 
This mob came on steadily, making no more 
noise than any similar group of seventy-five or 
eighty men tramping over a dusty road might 
be expected to make. 

For the most part they were silent and barren 

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of speech. One youngish man kept repeatmg 
to hhnself a set phrase as he marched along. 
This phrase never varied in word or expression. 
It was: "Goin' to git that nigger! Goin' to 
git that nigger!" — that was all — said over 
and over again in a dull, steady monotone. 
By its constant reiteration he was working 
himseK up, just as a rat-terrier may be worked 
up by constant hissed references to purely 
imaginary rats. 

Their number was obscured by the dust their 
feet lifted. It was as if each man at every 
step crushed with his toe a puffball that dis- 
charged its powdery particles upward into his 
face. Some of them carried arms openly — 
shotguns and rifles. The others showed no 
weapons, but had them. It seemed that every 
fourth man, nearly, had coiled upon his arm 
or swung over his shoulder a rope taken from a 
plow or a well-bucket. They had enough rope 
to hang ten men or a dozen — yes, with stinting, 
to hang twenty. One man labored under the 
weight of a three-gallon can of coal-oil, so 
heavy that he had to shift it frequently from 
one tired arm to the other. In that weather 
the added burden made the sour sweat rim 
down in streaks, furrowing the gi'ime on his 
face. The Massac Creek blacksmith had a 
sledge-hammer over his shoulder and was in 
the front rank. Not one was masked or carried 
his face averted. Nearly all were growTi men 
and not one was under twenty. A certain 

[262] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

definite purpose showed in their gait. It 
showed, also, in the way they closed up and 
became a more compact formation as they 
came within sight of the trees fringing the 
square. 

Down through the drowsing town edge they 
stepped, giving alarm only to the chickens that 
scratched languidly where scrub-oaks cast a 
skimpy shade across the road; but as they 
reached the town line they passed a clutter of 
negro cabins clustering about a little doggery. 
A negro woman stepped to a door and saw them. 
Distractedly, fluttering like a hen, she ran into 
the bare, grassless yard, setting up a hysterical 
outcry. A negro man came quickl^^ from the 
cabin, clapped his hand over her mouth and 
dragged her back inside, slamming the door to 
behind him with a kick of his bare foot. Un- 
seen hands shut the other cabin doors and 
the woman's half -smothered cries came dimly 
through the clapboarded wall; but a slim 
black darky darted southward from the doggery, 
worming his way under a broken, snaggled 
fence and keeping the straggling line of houses 
and stables between him and the marchers. 
This fleeing figure was Jeff, Judge Priest's 
negro bodyservant, who had a most amazing 
faculty for always being wherever things 
happened. 

Jeff was short and slim and he could run fast. 
He ran fast now, snatching off his hat and 
carrying it in his hand — the surest of all signs 

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that a negro is traveling at his top gait. A 
good eighth of a mile in advance of the mob, 
he shot in at the back door of the courthouse 
and flung himself into his employer's room. 

"Jedge! Jedge!" he panted tensely. "Jedge 
Priest, please, suh, wake up — the mobbers is 
comm ! 

Judge Priest came out of his nap with a jerk 
that uprighted him in his chair. 

"What's that, boy.?" 

"The w'ite folks is comin' after that there 
little nigger over in the jail. I outrun 'em to 
git yere and tell you, suh." 

"Ah-hah!" said Judge Priest, which was 
what Judge Priest generally said first of all 
when something struck him forcibly. He 
reared himself up briskly and reached for his 
hat and umbrella. 

"Which way are they comin' from?" he asked 
as he made for the hall and the front door. 

"Comin' down the planin'-mill road into 
Jefferson Street," explained Jeff, gasping out 
the words. 

As the old judge, with Jeff in his wake, 
emerged from the shadows of the tall hallway 
into the blinding glare of the portico they met 
Dink Bynum, the deputy jailer, just diving in. 
Dink was shirtsleeved. His face was curiously 
checkered with red-and-white blotches. He 
cast a backward glance, bumped into the 
judge's greater bulk and caromed off, snatching 
at the air to recover himseff. 



[264] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

"Are you desertin' your post, Dink?" de- 
manded the judge. 

" Jedge, there wasn't no manner of use in my 
stayin'," babbled Bynum. "I'm all alone and 
there's a whole big crowd of 'em comin' yonder. 
There'll git that nigger anyhow — and he 
deserves it! " he burst out. 

"Dink Bynum, where are the keys to that 
jail?" said Judge Priest, speaking unusually 
fast for him. 

"I clean forgot 'em!" he quavered. "I left 
'em hangin' in the jail office." 

"And also I note you left the outside door 
of the jail standin' wide open," said the 
judge, glancing to the left. "Where's your 
pistol?" 

"In my pocket — in my pocket, here." 

"Git it out!" 

"Jedge Priest, I wouldn't dare make no 
resistance single-handed — I got a family — 
I — " faltered the unhappy deputy jailer. 

The moving dustcloud, with legs and arms 
showing through its swirling front, was no more 
than a hundred yards away. You could make 
out details — hot, red, resolute faces; the glint 
of the sun on a gunbarrel; the polished nose 
of the blacksmith's sledge; the round curve of 
a greasy oilcan. 

"Dink Bynum," said Judge Priest, "git 
that gun out and give it to me — quick!" 

"Jedge, listen to reason!" begged Bynum. 
** You're a candidate yourse'f. Sentiment is 

[ 265 ] 



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aginst that nigger — strong. You'll hurt your 
own chances if you interfere." 

The judge didn't answer. His eyes were 
on the dustcloud and his hand was extended. 
His pudgy fingers closed round the heavy hand-= 
f ul of blued steel that Dink Bynum passed over 
and he shoved it out of sight. Laboring heavily 
down the steps he opened his umbrella and put 
it over his shoulder, and as he waddled do\\Ti the 
short gravel path his shadow had the grotesque 
semblance of a big crawling land terrapin 
following him. One look Judge Priest sent 
over his shoulder. Dink Bynum and Jeff had 
both vanished. Except for the men from 
Massac there was no living being to be seen. 

They didn't see him, either, until they were 
right upon him. He came out across the narrow 
sidewalk of the square and halted directly in 
their path, with his right hand raised and his 
umbrella tilted far back, so that its shade cut 
across the top of his straw hat, making a distinct 
line. 

"Boys," he said familiarly, almost pater- 
nally — "Boys, I want to have a word with 
you." 

Most of the Massac men knew him — some 
of them knew him very well. They had served 
on juries under him; he had eaten Sunday 
dinners imder their roof trees. They stopped, 
the rear rows crowding up closer until they 
were a solid mass facing him. Beyond him 
they could see the outer door of the jail gaping 

[ 266 ] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 



hospitably and the sight gave an edge to their 
purpose that was like the gnawing of physical 
hunger. Above all things they were sharp-set 
to hurry forward the thing they had it in then* 
minds to do. 

*'Boys," said the judge, "most of you are 
friends of mine — and I want to tell you some- 
thing. You mustn't do the thing you're pur- 
posin' to do — you mustn't do it!" 

A snorted outburst, as of incredulity, came 
from the sweating clump of countrymen con- 
fronting him. 

"The hell we mustn't!" drawled one of them 
derisively, and a snicker started. 

The snicker grew to a laugh — a laugh with 
a thread of grim menace in it, and a tinge of 
mounting man-hysteria. Even to these men, 
whose eyes were used to resting on ungainly 
and awkward old men, the figure of Judge Priest, 
standing in their way alone, had a grotesque 
emphasis. The judge's broad stomach stuck 
far out in front and was balanced by the rear- 
ward bulge of his umbrella. His white chin- 
beard was streaked with tobacco stains. The 
legs of his white linen trousers were caught up 
on hh shins and bagged dropsically at the knees. 
The righthand pocket of his black alpaca coat 
was sagged away down by some heavy imseen 
weight. 

None cf th^ men in the front rank joined 
in the snickering however; they only looked 
at the judgp *vith a sort of respectful obstinacy. 

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There was nothing said for maybe twenty 
seconds. 

"Jedge Priest," said a spokesman, a tall, 
spare, bony man with a sandy drooping mus- 
tache and a nose that beaked over like a butcher- 
bird's bill — "Jedge Priest, we've come after 
a nigger boy that's locked up in that jail 
yonder and we're goin' to have liim! Speak- 
ing personally, most of us here know you and 
we all like you, suh; but I'll have to ask you 
to stand aside and let us go ahead about our 
business." 

"Gentlemen," said Judge Priest, without 
altering his tone, "the law of this state pro- 
vides a proper " 

"The law provides — eh?" mimicked the 
man who had laughed first. "The law pro- 
vides, does it?" 

" provides a fittin' and an orderly way 

of attendin' to these matters," went on the 
judge. "In the absence of the other sworn 
officials of this county I represent in my own 
humble person the majesty of the law, and I 
say to you ■" 

"Jedge Priest," cut in the beaky-nosed man, 
" you are an old man and you stand mighty high * 
in this community — none higher. We don't 
none of us want to do nothin' or say nothin' 
to you that mout be regretted afterward; but 
we air goin' to have that nigger out of that jail 
and stretch his neck for him. He's one nigger 
that's lived too long already. You'd better 

[WS] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 



step back!" he went on. " You're just wastin' 
your time and oum." 

A growling assent to this sentiment ran 
through the mob. It was a growl that carried 
a snarl. There was a surging forward move- 
ment from the rear and a restless rustle of 
limbs. 

"Wait a minute, boys!" said the leader. 
"Wait a mmute. There's no hurry — we'll 
git him! Jedge Priest," he went on, changing 
his tone to one of regardful admonition, "you've 
got a race on for reelection and you'll need 
every vote you Idn git. I hope you ain't goin' 
to do nothin' that'll maybe hurt your chances 
among us Massac Creekers." 

"That's the second time that's been thro wed 
up to me inside of five minutes," said Judge 
Priest. "My chances for election have nothin' 
to do with the matter now in hand — remember 
that!" 

"All right — all right!" assented the other. 
"Then I'll tell you somethin' else. Us men 
have come in broad daylight, not hidin' our 
faces from the noonday sun. We air open and 
aboveboard about this thing. Every able- 
bodied, self-respectin' white man in our precmct 
is right here with me today. W^e've talked it 
over and we know what we air dom'. If you 
want to take down our names and prosecute 
us in the cotes you kin go ahead." 

Somebody else spoke up. 

**I'd admire to see the jury in this county 

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that would pop the law to ary one of us for 
swingin' up this nigger!*' he said, chuckling 
at the naked folly of the notion. 

"You're right, my son," said the judge, 
singling out the speaker with his aimed fore- 
finger. "I ain't tryin' to scare grown men 
like you with such talk as that. I know how 
you feel. I can understand how you feel — 
every man with white blood in his veins knows 
just what your feelin's are. I'm not trying to 
threaten you. I only want to reason with you 
and talk sense with you. This here boy ain't 
been identified yet — remember that!" 

"We know he's guilty!" said the leader. 

"I'll admit that circumstances may be 
against him," pleaded the judge, "but his 
guilt remaius to be proved. You can't hang 
any man — you can't hang even this poor, 
miserable Httle darky — jest on suspicion." 

"The dogs trailed him, didn't they.?" 

"A dog's judgment is mighty nigh as poor 
as a man's sometimes," he answered back, 
fighting hard for every shade of favor. "It's 
my experience that a bloodhound is about the 
biggest fool dog there is. Now listen here to 
me, boys, a minute. That boy in the jail is 
goin' to be tried just as soon as I can convene a 
special grand jury to indict him and a special 
term of court to try him, and if he's guilty I 
promise you he'll hang inside of thirty days." 

"And drag that pore little thing — my own 
first cousin — into a cotehouse to be shamed 



[270] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

before a lot of these town people — no!" the 
voice of the leader rose high. " Cotes and juries 
may do for some cases, but not for this. That 
nigger is goin' to die right now!" 

He glanced back at his followers; they were 
ready — and more than ready. On his right 
a man had uncoiled a well-rope and was tying 
a slipknot in it. He tested the knot with both 
hands and his teeth, then spat to free his Hps 
of the gritty dust and swung the rope out in 
long doubled coils to reeve the noose in it. 

" Jedge Priest, for the last time, stand aside!" 
warned the beaky-nosed man. His voice carried 
the accent of finality and ultimate decision in 
it. "You've done wore our patience plum' 
out. Boys, if you're ready come on!" 

"One minute!" The judge's shrill blare of 
command held them against their wills. He 
was lowering his umbrella. "One minute and 
one word more!" 

Shuffling their impatient feet they watched 
him backing with a sort of ungainly alertness 
over from right to left, dragging the battered 
brass ferrule of his umbrella after him, so that 
it made a line from one curb of the narrow street 
to the other. Doing this his eyes never left 
their startled faces. At the far side he halted 
and stepped over so that they faced this line 
from one side and he from^ the other. The 
line lay between them, furrowed in the deep 
dust. 

"Men," he said, and his lifelong affecta- 

[2711 



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tioR of deliberately ungrammatical speech 
was all gone from him, "I have said to you 
all I can say. I will now kill the first man 
who puts his foot across that line!" 

There was nothing Homeric, nothing heroic 
about it. Even the line he had made in the 
dust waggled, and was skewed and crooked 
like the trail of a blind worm. His old figure 
was still as grotesquely plump and misshapen 
as ever — the broken rib of his umbrella slanted 
askew like the crippled wing of a fat bat; but 
the pudgy hand that brought the big blue 
gun out of the right pocket of the alpaca coat 
and swung it out and up, muzzle lifted, was 
steady and sure. His thumb drew the hammer 
back and the double click broke on the amazed 
dumb silence that had fallen like two clangs 
upon an anvil. The wrinkles in his face all 
set into fixed, hard lines. 

It was about six feet from them to where 
the line crossed the road. Heavily, slowly, 
diffidently, as though their feet were weighted 
with the leaden boots of a deep sea diver, yet 
pushed on by one common spirit, they moved 
a foot at a time right up to the line. And there 
they halted, their eyes shifting from him to 
the dustmark and back again, rubbing their 
shoulders up against one another and shuffling 
on their legs Kke cattle startled by a snake in 
the path. 

The beaky-nosed man fumbled in the breast 
of his unbuttoned vest, loosening a revolver in 

L 272 ] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

a shoulder holster. A twenty -year-old boy, 
his face under its coating of dust as white as 
flour dough, made as if to push past him and 
break across the hne; but the Massac black- 
smith caught him and plucked him back. The 
leader, still fumbling inside his vest, addressed 
the judge hoarsely: 

"I certainly don't want to have to kill you, 
Jedge Priest!" he said doggedly. 

"I don't want to have to kill anybody," 
answered back Judge Priest; "but, as God 
is my judge, I'm going to kill the first one of 
you that crosses that line. If it was my own 
brother I'd kill him. I don't knov^^ which one 
of you will kill me, but I know which one I'm 
going to kill — the first man across!" 

They swayed their bodies from side to side — 
not forward but from side to side. They 
fingered their weapons, and some of them swore 
in a disappointed, irritated sort of way. This 
lasted perhaps half a minute, perhaps a whole 
minute — anyway it lasted for some such meas- 
urable period of time — before the crumbling 
crust of their resolution was broken through. 
The break came from the front and the center. 
Their leader, the lank, tall man with the down- 
tilted nose, was the first to give ground visibly. 
He turned about and without a word he began 
pushing a passage for himseK through the 
scrouging pack of them. Breathing hard, like 
men who had run a hard race, they followed 
him, going away with scarcely a backward 

[273] 



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glance toward the man who — alone — had 
daunted them. They followed after their leader 
as mules follow after a bell-mare, wipmg their 
grimy shirtsleeves across theu' sweaty, grimier 
faces and glancing toward each other with 
puzzled, questioning looks. One of them left 
a heavy can of coal -oil behind him upright in 
the middle of the road. 

The old judge stood still until they were a 
hundred yards away. He uncocked the revol- 
ver and put the deadly thing back in his pocket. 
Mechanically he raised his umbrella, fumbling a 
little with the stubborn catch, and tilted it over 
his left shoulder; his turtlelike shadow sprang 
out again, but this time it was in front of him. 
Very slowly, like a man who was dead tired, 
he made his way back up the gravel path 
toward the courthouse. Jeff magically materi- 
alized himseK out of nowhere, but of Dink 
Bynum there was no sign. 

"Is them w'ite gen'Fmen gone.^^" inquired 
Jeff, his eyes popping with the aftershock of 
what he had just witnessed — had witnessed 
from under the courthouse steps. 

"Yes," said the judge wearily, his shoulders 
drooping. "They're gone." 

"Jedge, ain't they hable to come back.^*" 

"No; they won't come back." 

"You kinder skeered 'em off, jedge I" An 
increasing admiration for his master perco- 
lated sweetly through Jeff's remarks like drip- 
ping honey. 

[274] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 



"No; I didn't scare 'em off exactly," answered 
the judge. "They are not the kind of men who 
can be scared off. I merely invoked the indi- 
vidual equation, if you know what that means .'^ " 

" Yas, suh — that's whut I thought it wuz,'' 
assented Jeff eagerly — the more eagerly be* 
cause he had no idea what the judge meant. 

"Jeff," the old man said, "help me into my 
office and get me a dipper of drinkin' water. 
I reckin maybe I've got a tech of the sun." 
He tottered a little and groped outward with 
one hand. 

Guided to the room, he sank inertly into 
his chair and feebly fought off the blackness 
that kept blanking his sight. Jeff fanned him 
with his hat. 

"I guess maybe this here campaignin' has 
been too much for me," said the judge slowly. 
"It must be the weather. I reckin from now 
on, Jeff, I'll have to set back sort of easy and 
let these young fellows run things." 

He sat there until the couching sun brought 
long, thin shadows and a false promise of cool- 
ness. Dink Bynum returned unobtrusively 
to his abandoned post of duty; the crowds 
began coming back from the Shad}^ Grove 
schoolhcuse; and Jeff found time to slip out 
and confiscate to private purposes a coal-oil 
can that still stood in the roadway. He knew 
of a market for such commodities. The tele- 
phone bell rang and the old judge, raising his 
sagged frame with an effort, went to the instru- 

[275] 



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ment and took down the receiver. Long- 
distance lines were beginning to creep out 
through the county and this was a call from 
Florence Station, seven miles away. 

''That you, Jedge Priest.^" said the voice 
over the wire. "This is Brack Rodgers. 
I've been tryin' to raise the sheriff's office, 
but they don't seem to answer. Well, suh, 
they got the nigger what done that devil- 
mint over at the Hampton place on Massac 
this evenin'. Yes, suh — about two hours 
ago. He was a nigger named Moore that 
worked on the adjoinin' place to Hampton's 
— a tobacco hand. Nobody suspected him 
until this mornin', when some of the other 
darkies got to talkin' round; and Buddy 
Quarles beared the talk and went after him. 
The nigger he fit back and Buddy had to 
shoot him a couple of times. Oh, yes, he died — 
died about an hour afterward; but before he 
died he owned up to ever 'thing. I reckin, on 
the whole, he got off light by bein' killed. 
Which, Jedge .^ — the nigger that's there in 
the jail? No, suh; he didn't have nothin' 
a-tall to do with it — the other nigger said 
so while he was dyin'. I jedge it was what 
you mout call another case of mistaken identity 
on the part of them fool hounds." 

To be sure of getting the full party vote 
out and to save the cost of separate staffs 
of precinct officers, the committee ordained 

[276] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

that the Democratic primaries should be held 
on the regular election day. The rains of 
November turned the dusts of August to high- 
edged ridges of sticky ooze. Election day 
came, wet and v,dndy and bleak. Men cutting 
across the yellow-brown pastures, on their 
way to the polling places, scared up flocks of 
little grayish birds that tumbled through the 
air like wind-driven leaves and dropped again 
into the bushes with small tweaking sounds, 
like the slicing together of shears; and as if 
to help out this illusion, they showed in their 
tails barrings of white feathers which opened 
and closed like scissor-b lades. The night came 
on; and it matched the day, being raw and 
gusty, with clouds like clotted whey whipping 
over and round a full moon that re^mbled 
a churn-dasher covered with yellow clabber. 
Then it started raining. 

The returns — county, state and national — 
were received at the office of the Daily Even- 
ing News; by seven o'clock the place was 
packed. Candidates and prominent citizens 
were crowded inside the railing that marked 
off the business department and the editorial 
department; while outside the railing and 
stretching on outdoors, into the street, the male 
populace of the town herded together in an 
almost solid mass. Inside, the air was streaky 
with layers of tobacco smoke and rich with 
the various smells of a small printing shop 
on a damp night. Behind a glass partition. 



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haKway back toward the end of the build- 
ing, a small press was turning out the weekly 
edition, smacking its metal lips over the taste 
of the raw ink. Its rumbling clatter, with the 
slobbery sputter of the arclights in the ceiling 
overhead, made an accompaniment to the 
voices of the crowd. Election night was 
always the biggest night of the year in our 
town — bigger than Christmas Eve even. 

The returns at large came by telegraph, 
but the returns of the primaries were sent in 
from the various precincts of town and county 
by telephone; or, in cases where there was no 
telephone, they were brought in by hard-riding 
messengers. At intervals, from the telegraph 
office two doors away, a boy would dash out 
and worm his way in through the eager multi- 
tude that packed and overflowed the narrow 
sidewalk; and through a wicket he would fling 
erumpled yellow tissue sheets at the editor 
of the paper. Then the editor would read 
out: 

"Seventeen election districts in the Ninth 
Assembly District of New York City give 

Schwartz, for coroner '* 

, " Ah, shuckin's ! Fooled again ! " 

"St. Louis — At this hour — nine-thii-ty — 
the Republicans concede that the entire Demo- 
cratic state ticket has won by substantial 
majorities " 

"Course it has! WTiat did they expect 
Missouri to do.^^" 



[^781 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

■ ' ■■ 

"Buffalo — Doran — for mayor, has been 
elected. The rest of the reform ticket is " 

"Oh, dad blame it! Henry, throw that 
stuff away and see if there ain't some way ta 
get something definite from Lang's Store or 
Clark's River on the race for state senator!" 

"Yes, or for sheriff — that's the kind of 
thing we're all honin' to know." 

The telephone bell rang. 

"Here you are, Mr. Tompkins — complete 
returns from Gum Sprmg Precinct." 

"Now — quiet, boys, please, so we can all 
hear." 

It was on this night that there befell the 
tragedy I made mention of in the first para- 
graph of this chapter. The old County Ring 
was smashing up. One by one the veterans 
were going under. A stripKng youth not two 
years out of the law school had beaten old 
Captain Daniel Boone Calkins for representa- 
tive; and old Captaiu Calkins had been repre- 
sentative so many years he thought the job 
belonged to him. Not much longer was the 
race for sheriff in doubt, or the race for state 
senator. Younger men snatched both jobs 
away from the old men who held them. 

In a far comer, behind a barricade of baclis 
and shoulders, sat Major J. Q. A. Pickett, a 
spare and knotty old man, ^nd Judge Priest, 
a chubby and rounded one. Of all the old 
men, the judge seemingly had run the strongest 
race, and Major Pickett, who had been county 

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clerk for twenty years or better, had run close 
behind him; but as the tally grew nearer its 
completion the major's chances faded to nothing 
at all and the judge's grew dimmed and dimmer. 

"What do you think, judge?" inquired 
Major Pickett for perhaps the twentieth time, 
clinging forlornly to a hope that was as good 
as gone already. 

"I think, major, that you and me are about 
to be notified that our fellow citizens have 
returned us onc't more to private pursoots," 
said the old judge, and there was a game smile 
on his face. For, so far back that he hated to 
remember how long it was, he had held his 
office — holding it as a trust of honor. He was 
too old actively to reenter the practice of law, 
and he had saved mighty little out of his salary 
as judge. He would be an idle man and a 
poor one — perhaps actually needy; and the 
look out of his eyes by no means matched the 
smile on his face. 

"I can't seem to understand it," said the 
major, crushed. "Always before, the old boys 
could be depended upon to turn out for us." 

"Major," said Judge Priest, letting his 
wrinkled old hand fall on the major's sound 
leg, "did you ever stop to think that there 
ain't so many of the old boys left any more? 
There used to be a hundred and seventy- 
five members of the camp in good standin'. 
How many are there now? And how many 
of the boys did we bury this past year?" 

[2801 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 

There was a yell from up front and a scrooging 
forward of bodies. 

Editor Tompkins was calling off something. 
The returns from Clark's River and from Lang's 
Store had arrived together. He read out the 
figures. These two old men, sitting side by 
side, at the back, listened with hands cupped 
behind ears that were growing a bit faulty of 
hearing. They heard. 

Major J. Q. A. Pickett got up very painfully 
and very slowly. He hooked his cane up under 
him and limped out unnoticed. That was the 
night when the major established his right of 
squatter sovereignty over that one particular 
spot at the far end of Billy Sherrill's bar-rail. 

Thus deserted, the judge sat alone for a 
minute. The bowl of his corncob pipe had 
lost its spark of life and he sucked absently 
at the cold, bitterish stem. Then he, too, got 
on his feet and made his way round the end 
of a cluttered-up writing desk into the middle 
of the room. It took an effort, but he bore 
himself proudly erect. 

"Henry," he called out to the editor, in 
his homely whine — " Henry, would you mind 
tellin' me — jest for curiosity — how my race 
stands?" 

"Judge," said the editor, "by the latest count 
you are forty-eight votes behind Mr. Prentiss." 

"And how many more precincts are there 
to hear from, my son.^" 

"Just one — Massac!" 

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"Ah-hah! Massac!" said the old judge. 
"Well, gentlemen," he went on, addressing 
the company generally, "I reckin I'll be goin' 
on home and turnin' in. This is the latest 
IVe been up at night in a good while. I won't 
wait roimd no longer — I reckin everythiag is 
the same as settled. I wisht one of you boys 
would convey my congratulations to Mr. 
Prentiss and tell him for me that " 

There was a bustle at the door and a new- 
comer broke in through the press of men's 
bodies. He was dripping with rain and spat- 
tered over the front with blobs of yellow mud. 
He was a tall man, with a drooping mustache 
and a nose that beaked at the tip like a butcher- 
bird's mandible. With a moist splash he 
slamm.ed a pair of wet saddlebags down on the 
narrow shelf at the wicket and, fishing w^th his 
fingers under one of the flaps, he produced a 
scrawled sheet of paper. The editor d the 
Daily Evening News grabbed it from him and 
smoothed it out and ran a pencil down the 
irregular, weaving column of figures. 

"Complete returns on all the county races 
are now in," he announced loudly, and every 
face turned toward him. 

"The returns from Massac Precinct make 
no changes in any of the races " 

The cheering started in full volume; but 
the editor raised his hand and stilled it. 

" make no change in any of the races — 

except one." 

[282] 



THE MOB FROM MASSAC 



All sounds died and the crowd froze to silence. 

*' Massac Precinct has eighty -four registered 
Democratic votes," went on Tompkins, pro- 
longing the suspense. For a country editor, 
he had the dramatic instinct most highly 
developed. 

"And of these eighty-four, all eighty-four 
voted." 

"Yes; go on! Go on, Henry!" 

"And all eighty -four of 'em — every mother's 
son of 'em — voted for th^ Honorable William 
Pitman Priest," finished Tompkins. "Judge, 
you win by " 

Really, that sentence was not finished until 
Editor Tompkins got his next day's paper out. 
The old judge felt blindly for a chair, sat down 
and put his face in his two hands. Eight or 
ten old men pressed in toward him from all 
directions; and, huddling about him, they 
raised their several cracked and quavery voices 
in a yell that ripped its way up and through 
and above and beyond the mixed and indis- 
criminate whoopings of the crowd. 

This yell, which is shrill and very penetrating, 
has been described in print technically as the 
Rebel yell. 



[^83] 



IX 

A DOGGED UNDER DOG 



ONE or two nights a week my uncle 
used to take me with him when he 
went to spend the evening with old 
Judge Priest. There were pretty sure 
to be a half dozen or more gray heads there; 
and if it were good out-door weather, they 
would sit in a row on the wide low veranda, 
smoking their pipes and their cigars; and of 
these the cigars kept off the mosquitos even 
better than the pipes did, our country being 
notorious, then, as now, for the excellence of 
its domestic red liquor and the amazing potency 
of its domestic black cigars. Every Kttle 
while, conceding the night to be hot. Judge 
Priest's Jeff would come bringing a tray with 
drinks — toddies or else mint juleps, that were 
as fragrant as the perfumed fountains of a fairy 
tale and crowned with bristling sprays of the 
gracious herbage. And they would sit and 
smoke and talk, and I would perch on the top 
step of the porch, hugging my bare knees 
together and listening. 

[284] 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 



It was on just such a night as this that I 
heard the story of Singin' Sandy Riggs, the 
Under Dog. I think it must have been in 
July — or maybe it was August. To the 
northward the sheet hghtning played back 
and forth like a great winking lens, burning 
the day heat out of the air and from the dried 
up bed of the creek, a quarter of a mile away, 
came the notes of big bassooning bull frogs, 
baying at the night. Every now and then a 
black bird or a tree martin in the maple over 
head would have a bad dream and talk out 
in its sleep; and hundreds upon hundreds of 
birds roosting up there would rouse and utter 
querulous, drowsy bird-sounds, and bestir them- 
selves until the whole top of the tree rustled 
and moved as though from a sudden breeze. 
In lulls of the talk, thin-shredded snatches of 
singing was borne to us from the little church 
beyond the old Enders orchard where the 
negroes were holding one of their frequent 
revivals. 

It was worth any boy's while to listen to the 
company that assembled on Judge Priest's front 
porch. Eor one. Squire Rufus Buckley was 
pretty certain to be there. Possibly by reason 
of his holding a judicial office and possibly 
because he was of a conservative habit of mind, 
Squire Buckley was never known to give a 
direct answer to any question. For their own 
amusement, people used to try him. Catching 
him on a flawless morning, someone would 

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remark in a tone of questioning that it was a 
fine day. 

"Well now," the Squire would say, "It tis 
and it taint. It's clear now but you can't 
never tell when it'll cloud up." 

He owned a little grocery store out in the 
edge of town and had his magistrate's office in 
a back room behind it. On a crowded Satur- 
day when the country rigs were standing three 
deep outside and the two clerks were flying 
about measuring and weighing and counting 
up and drawing off, a waiting customer might 
be moved to say: 

"Business pretty good, ain't it Squire?" 

"It's good," the Squire would say, licking 
off the corn-cob stopper of a molasses jug and 
driving it with a sticky plop into its appointed 
orifice, "And then agin it's bad. Some things 
air sellin' off very well and some things ain't 
hardly sellin' off a'tall." 

The Squire was no great shakes of a talker, 
but as a hstener he was magnificent. He would 
sit silently hour after hour with his hands laced 
over his paunch, only occasionally spitting 
over the banisters with a strident tearing 
sound. 

Nor was the assemblage complete without 
Captain Shelby Woodward. Captain Shelby 
Woodward's specialty in conversation was the 
Big War. From him I first heard the story of 
how Lieutenant Gracey of the County Battery 
floated down the river on a saw log and single 

[286] 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 



handed, captured the Yankee gunboat and its 
sleepy-headed crew. From him I learned the 
why and wherefore of how our town although 
located right on the border of North and South, 
came in '61 to be called the Little Charleston, 
and from him also I got the tale of that lost 
legion of Illinois men, a full battalion of them, 
who crossing out of their own State by stealth 
were joyously welcomed into ours, and were 
mustered into the service and thereafter for 
four years fought their own kinspeople and 
neighbors — the only organized command, so 
Captain Shelby Woodward said, that came to 
the army from the outside. Frequently he 
used to tell about Miss Em. Garrett, who when 
Grant came up from Cairo on his gunboats, 
alone remembered what all the rest of the 
frightened town forgot — that the silken flag 
which the women had made with loving hands, 
was still floating from its flag pole in front of 
the engine house; and she drove her old rock- 
away down to the engine house and made her 
litt^ 3 negro house boy shin up the pole and bring 
the flag down to her, he greatly fearing the 
shells from the gunboats that whistled past 
his head, but fearing much more his mistress, 
standing down below and lashing up at his 
bare legs with her buggy whip. 

"So then," Captain Woodward would go on, 
"she put the flag under her dress and drove 
on home. But some Union sympathizer told 
on her when the troops landed and a crowd 

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of them broke away and went out to her place 
and called on her to give it up. She was all 
alone except for the darkeys, but she wasn't 
scared, that old woman. They sassed her and 
she sassed 'em back, and they were swearing 
they'd burn the house down over her head, 
and she was daring 'em to do it, when an officer 
came up and drove 'em off. And afterwards 
when the warehouses and the churches and 
the Young Ladies' Seminary were chuck full 
of sick and wounded, brought down from 
Donaldson and Shiloh, she turned in and 
nursed them all alike, not caring which side 
they'd fought on. And so, some of the very 
men that had threatened her, used to salute 
when she passed them on the street. 

"And sir, she wore that flag under her skirts 
for four years, and she kept it always and when 
she died it was her shroud. You remember, 
Billy, — you were one of the pall bearers .f^" 
he would say, turning to Judge Priest. 

And Judge Priest would say he remembered 
mighty well and the talk would go swinging 
back and forth, but generally back, being con- 
cerned mainly with people that were dead and 
things that were done years and years before 
I was bom. 

Major J. Q. A. Pickett was apt to be of the 
company, dapper and as jaunty as his game leg 
would let him be, always in black with a white 
tube rose in his buttonhole. The Major was 
a bom boulevardier without a boulevard, a 

[288] 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 

natural man about town without the right 
kind of a town to be about in, and a clubman 
by instinct, yet with no club except the awn- 
ings under Soule's drug store, and the screen- 
ing of dishrag vines and balsam apples on 
Priest's front porch. Also in a far comer some- 
where, Httle Mr. Herman Felsburg of Pels- 
burg Brothers, our leading clothiers, might 
often be found. Mr. Felsburg's twisted sen- 
tences used to tickle me. I was nearly grown 
before I learned, by chance, what Mr. Felsburg 
himself never mentioned — that he, a newly 
landed immigrant, enhsted at the first call 
and had fought in half a dozen hard battles 
before he properly knew the Enghsh for the 
commands of his captain. But my favorite 
story-teller of them all, was old Cap'n Jasper 
Lawson, and he was old — old even to these 
other old men, older by a full twenty years than 
the oldest of them, a patriarch of the early 
times, a Forty-niner, and a veteran of two 
wars and an Indian Campaign. For me he 
linked the faded past to the present and 
made it glow again in vivid colors. Wherever 
he was, was an Arabian Nights Entertainment 
for me. 

He lives as a memory now in the town — 
his lean shaven jowl, and his high heeled boots 
and the crimson blanket that he wore winters, 
draped over his shoulders and held at the 
throat with a pin made of a big crusty nugget 
of virgin CaUfomia gold. Wearing this blanket 

[2891 



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was no theatrical affectation of Cap'n Jasper's 
- — it was a part of him; he was raised in the 
days when men, white and red both, wore 
blankets for overcoats. He could remember 
when the Chickasaws still held our end of the 
State and General Jackson and Governor 
Shelby came down and bought it away from 
them and so gave to it its name of The Purchase. 
He could remember plenty of things like that — 
and what was better, could tell them so that 
you could see before your eyes the burnished 
backs of the naked bucks sitting in solemn 
conclave and those two old Indian fighters 
chaffering with them for their tribal lands. He 
was tall and sparse and straight like one of 
those old hillside pines, that I have seen since 
growing on the red clay slopes of the cotton 
country south of us; and he stayed so until 
he died, which was when he was away up in the 
nineties. It was Cap'n Jasper this night who 
told the story of Singin' Sandy Riggs. 

Somehow or other, the talk had flowed and 
eddied by winding ways to the subject of 
cowardice, and Judge Priest had said that 
every brave man was a coward and every 
coward was a brave man — it all depended on 
the time and the place — and this had moved 
Captain Shelby Woodward to repeat one of 
his staple chronicles — when the occasion suited 
he always told it. It concerned that epic last 
year of the Orphan Brigade — his brigade he 
always called it, as though he'd owned it. 

[2901 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 

"More than five thousand of us in that 
brigade of mine, when we went out in '61," he 
said, "and not quite twelve hundred of us 
left on that morning in May of '64 wlien 
we marched out of Dalton — Joe Johnston's 
rear guard, holding Sherman back. Holding 
him back? Hah, feeding ourselves to him; 
that was it, sir — just feeding ourselves to him 
a bite at a time, so as to give the rest of the 
army a chance for its life. And what does 
that man Shaler say — what does he say 
and prove it by the figures.'* One hundred and 
twenty soHd days of fighting and marching and 
retreating — one hundred and forty days that 
were like a hot red slice carved out of hell — ■ 
fighting every day and mighty near every hour, 
hanging on Sherman's flanks and stinging at 
him like gadflies and being wiped out and 
swallowed in mouthfuls. A total, sir, of more 
than 1800 deadly or disabhng wounds for us 
in those hundred and twenty days, or more than 
a wound apiece if every man had been wounded, 
and there were less than fifty of the boys that 
weren't wounded at that. And in September, 
at the end of those hundred and twenty days, 
just 240 of us left out of what had been five 
thousand three years before — 240 out of what 
had been nearly twelve hundred in May — 240 
out of a whole brigade, infantry, and artillery 
— but still fighting and still ready to keep 
right on fighting. Those are Shaler's figures, 
and he was a Federal officer himself, and 

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a most gallant gentleman. And it is true, sir 
— every word of it is true. 

"Now was that bravery? Or was it just 
pure doggedness? And when you come right 
down to it, what is the difference between the 
two.^ This one thing I do know, though — ■ 
if it was bravery we were no braver than the men 
who fought us and chased us and killed us off 
on that campaign to iVtlanta and then on down 
to the Sea and if it was doggedness, they'd 
have been just as dogged as we were with the 
conditions reversed — them losing and us win- 
ning. WTien you're the underdog you just 
natm-ally have to fight — there's nothing else 
for you to do — isn't that true in your 
experience, Billy?" 

"Yes," said Judge Priest, "that's true as 
Gospel Writ. After all, boys," he added, "I 
reckin the bravest man that lives is the coward 
that wants to run and yit don't do it. And 
anyway, when all's said and done, the bravest 
fighters in every war have always been the 
women and not the men. I know 'twas so in 
that war of ours — the men could go and git 
what joy there was out of the fightin'; it was 
the women that stayed behind and suffered 
and waited and prayed. Boys, if you've all 
got a taste of your toddies left, s'posen we drink 
to our women before Jeff brings you your fresh 
glasses." 

They drank with those little clucking sipping 
sounds that old men make when they drink, 

[2921 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 

and for a bit there was a silence. The shifting 
shuttle play of the lightning made stage effects 
in yellow and black against the back-drop of 
the sky. From the shadows of the dishrag vine 
where he sat in a hickory arm chair, his pipe 
bowl making a glowing red smudge in the dark- 
ness, old Cap'n Jasper Lawson spoke. 

"Speaking of under dogs and things, I reckon 
none of you young fellows" — he chuckled a 
little down in his throat — "can remember 
when this wasn't a gun-toting country down 
here? But I do. 

"It was before your day, but I remember 
it. First off, there was the time when my 
daddy and the granddaddies of some of you 
gentlemen came out over the Wilderness trail 
with a squirrel rifle in one hand and an ax in 
the other, swapping shots with the Indians 
every step of the way. And that was the 
beginning of everything here. Then, years 
later on, the feuds started, up in the mountains 
— although I'm not denying but we had our 
share of them do^ai here too — and some broken 
down aristocrats moved out from Virginia and 
Maryland and brought the Code and a few 
pairs of those old long barreled dueling pis- 
tols along with them, which was really the 
only baggage some of them had; and awhile 
after that the Big War came on; and so what 
with one thing and another, men took to tot- 
ing guns regularly — a mighty bad habit too, 
and one which we've never been entirely cured 

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of yet, as Billy's next court docket will show, 
eh, Billy?" 

Judge Priest made an inarticulate sound of 
regretful assent and Squire Buckley spat out 
into the darkness with a long-drawn syrupy 
swish. 

"But in between, back in the twenties and 
the thirties, there was a period when gun toting 
wasn't so highly popular. Maybe it was 
because pistols hadn't got common yet and 
squirrel rifles were too heavy to tote around, 
and maybe it was because people were just 
tired of trouble. I won't pretend to say exactly 
what the cause of it was, but so it was — men 
settled their differences with their fists and 
their feet — with their teeth too, sometimes. 
And if there were more gouged eyes and m.ore 
teeth knocked out, there were fewer widows 
and not so many orphans either. 

"I notice some of you younger fellows have 
taken here lately to calHng this town a city, 
but when I first came here, it wasn't even a 
town — just an overgrown w^ood landing, in 
the river bottom, with the shacks and houses 
stuck up on piles to keep 'em out of the river 
mud. There were still Indians a plenty too — 
Chickasaws and Creeks and some Shawnees — 
and some white folks who were mighty near as 
ignorant as the Indians. Wliy it hadn't been 
but a few years before — three or four at most, 
I reckon — since they'd tried to burn the 
widow woman Simmons as a witch. As boys, 

[294] 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 

some of you must have heard tell of old Marm. 
Simmions. Well, I can remember her and that's 
better. She lived alone with an old black cat 
for company, and she was poor and friendless 
and sort of pecuKar in her ways and that 
started it. And one spring, when the high- 
water went down, the children got sickly and 
begun dying off of this here spotted fever. 
And somebody started the tale that old Marm 
Simmons was witching 'em to make 'em die — • 
that she'd look at a child and then the child 
would take down sick and die. It was Salem, 
Massachusetts, moved up a couple of hundred 
years, but they beheved it — some of them 
did. And one night a dozen men went to her 
cabin and dragged her out along with her cat 
— both of them spitting and yowling and 
scratching like blood sisters — and they had 
her flung up onto a burning brush pile and her 
apron strings had burnt in two when three or 
four men who were still sane came running up 
and broke in and kicked the fire apart and 
saved her. But her old cat went tearing off 
through the woods like a Jack-mer-lantern 
w^th his fur all afire." 

He paused a moment to suck deliberately 
at his pipe, and I sat and thought about old 
Marm Simmons and her blazing tom cat, and 
was glad clear down to my wriggling toes that 
I didn't have to go home aloiie. In a minute 
or so Cap'n Jasper was droning on again: 

"So you can tell by that, that this here city 

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of yours was a pretty tolerable rough place in 
its infancy, and full of rough people as most all 
new settlements are. You've got to remember 
that this was the frontier in those days. But 
the roughest of them all, as I recollect, rougher 
even than the keel-boaters and the trappers 
and even the Indian traders — was Harve 
Allen. He set himseK up to be the bully of this 
river country. 

"Weil, he was. He was more than six feet 
tall and built like a catamount, and all the 
whiskey he'd drunk — you could get a gallon 
then for what a dram'll cost you now — hadn't 
burnt him out yet. He fought seemingly just 
for the pure love of fighting. Come a muster 
or a barn raising or an election or anything, 
Harve Allen fought somebody — and licked 
him. Before he had been here a year he had 
beat up half the men in this settlement, and 
the other half were pretty careful to leave him 
alone, even those that weren't afraid of him. 
He never used anything though except his 
fists, and his feet and his teeth — he never 
needed anything else. So far as was known, 
he'd never been licked in his whole life. 

"You see, there was nobody to stop him. 
The sheriff lived away down at the other end 
of the county, and the county was five times 
as big as it is now. There were some town 
trustees — three of them — and they'd ap- 
pointed a long, gangling, jimpy-jawed fellow 
named Catlett to be the first town constable, 

[296] 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 

but even half grown boys laughed at Catlett, 
let alone Harve Allen. Harve would just look 
at Catlett sort of contemptously and Catlett 
would sHde oi^ backwards like a crawfish. And 
when Harve got a few drams aboard and began 
churning up his war medicine, Catlett would 
hurry right straight home, and be taken down 
sick in bed and stay there until Harve had eased 
himself, beating up people. 

"So Harve Allen ran a wood yard for the 
river people and had things pretty much his 
own way. Mainly people gave him the whole 
road. There was a story out that he'd be- 
longed to the Ford's Ferry gang before they 
broke up the gang. That's a yarn I'll have to 
tell this boy here some of these days when I 
get the time — how they caught the gang 
hiding in Cave-In-Rock and shot some of them 
and drowned the rest, all but the two head 
devils — Big Harp and Little Harp who were 
brothers — and how they got back across the 
river in a dug out and were run down with 
dogs and killed too; and the men that killed 
them cut off their heads and salted them and 
packed them in a piggin of brine and sent the 
piggin by a man on horseback up to Frankfort 
to collect the reward. Yes, that's what they 
did, and it makes a tale that ought to be written 
out some time." 

That was old Cap'n Jasper's way. His 
mind was laden like Aladdin's sumter-mule, 
with treasures uncountable, and often he would 

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drop some such glittering jewel as this and 
leave it and go on. I mind now how many 
times he started to tell me the full story of the 
two dissolute Virginians, nephews of one of the 
first Presidents, who in a fit of drunken temper 
killed their slave boy George, on the very night 
that the great Earthquake of 1811 came — 
and taking the agues and the crackings of 
the earth for a judgment of God upon their 
heads, went half mad with terror and ran to 
^ve themselves up. But I never did find out, 
and I don't loiow yet what happened to them 
after that. Nor was I ever to hear from Cap'n 
Jasper the fuller and gory details of the timely 
taking-off of Big Harp and Little Harp. He 
just gave me this one taste of the delightful 
horror of it and went on. 

"Some of them said that Harve Allen had 
belonged to the Ford's Ferry gang and that 
he'd got away when the others were trapped. 
For a fact he did come down the river right 
after the massacre at the cave, and maybe 
that was how the story started. But as for 
myself, I never believed that part of it at all. 
Spite of his meanness, Harve Allen wasn't the 
murdering kind and it must have taken a 
mighty seasoned murderer to keep steady 
company with Big Harp and Little Harp. 

" But he looked mean enough for anything — 
just the way he would look at a man won half 
liis fights for him. It's rising of sixty years 
since I saw him, but I can shut my eyes and 

[2981 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 



the picture of him comes back to me plain as 
a painted portrait on a walL I can see him 
now, rising of six feet-three, as I told you, and 
long-legged and raw-boned. He didn't have 
any beard on his face — he'd pulled it out 
the same as the Indian bucks used to do, only 
they'd use nmssel shells, and he used tweezers, 
but there were a few hairs left in his chin that 
were black and stiff and stood out like the 
bristles on a hog's jowl. And his under lip 
lolled down as though it'd been sagged out 
of plumb by the weight of all the cuss-words 
that Harve had sworn in his time, and his eyes 
were as cold and mean as a catfish's eyes. He 
used to wear an old deer skin hunting vest, 
and it was gormed and smeared with grease 
until it was as slick as an otter-slide; and most 
of the time he went bare foot. The bottoms 
of his feet were like horn. 

"That was the way he looked the day he 
licked Singin' Sandy the first time — and like- 
wise the way he looked all the other times too, 
for the matter of that. But the first time was 
the day they hanged Tallow Dave, the half 
breed, for killing the little Cartright girl. It 
was the first hanging we ever had in this 
country — the first legal hanging I mean — 
and from all over the county, up and down the 
river, and from away back in the oak barrens, 
the people came to see it. They came afoot 
and ahorseback, the men bringing their rifles 
and even old swords and old war hatchets 



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with them, with the women and children riding 
on behind them. It made the biggest crowd 
that'd ever been here up to then. Away down 
by the willows stood the old white house that 
washed away in the rise of '54, where old 
Madame La Farge, the old French woman, 
used to gamble with the steamboat captains, 
and up where the Market Square is now, was 
the jail, which was built of logs; and in between 
stretched a row of houses and cabins, mainly 
of logs too, all facing the river. There was a 
road in front, running along the top of the 
bank, and in summer it was knee deep in dust, 
fit to choke a horse, and in winter it was just 
one slough of mud that caked and balled on 
your feet until it would pull your shoes off. 
I've seen teams mired down many a time there, 
right where the Richland House is now. But 
on this day the mud was no more than shoe- 
throat deep, which nobody minded; and the 
whole river front was just crawling with people 
and horses. 

"They brought Tallow Dave out of the jail 
with his arms tied back, and put him in a 
wagon, him sitting on his coffin, and drove 
him under a tree and noosed him round the 
neck, and then the wagon pulled out and left 
him swinging and kicking there with the people 
scrooging up so close to him they almost 
touched his legs. I was there where I could 
see it all, and that's another thing in my life 
I'm never going to forget. It was pretty sooD 

[300] 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 



after they'd cut him down that Harve Allen 
ran across Singin' Sandy. This Sandy Riggs 
was a little stumpy man with sandy hair and 
big gray eyes that would put you in mind of a 
couple of these here mossy agates, and he was 
as freckled as a turkey egg, in the face. He 
hadn't been here very long and people had 
just begun calling him Singin' Sandy on account 
of him going along always hum^ming a little tune 
without any words to it and really not much 
tune, more like a big blue bottle fly droning 
than anything else. He lived in a little clear- 
ing that he'd made about three miles out, back 
of the Grundy Hill, where that new summer 
park, as they call it, stands now. But then 
it was all deep timber — oak barrens in the 
high ground and cypress slashes in the low — 
with a trail where the gravel road runs, and 
the timber was full of razor back hogs stropping 
themselves against the tree boles and up above 
there were squirrels as thick as these English 
sparrows are today. He had a cub of a boy 
that looked just like him, freckles and sandy 
head and all; and this boy — he was about 
fourteen, I reckon — had come in with him 
on this day of the Tallow Dave hanging. 

"Well, some w^ay or other, Singin' Sandy 
gave offense to Harve Allen — which as I have 
told you, was no hard thing to do — bumped 
into him by accident maybe or didn't get out 
of the road brisk enough to suit Harve. And 
Harve without a word, up and hauled off and 

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smacked him down as flat as a flinder. He laid 
there on the ground a minute, sort of stunned, 
and then up he got and surprised everybody 
by making a rush for Harve. He mixed it 
with him but it was too onesided to be much 
fun, even for those who'd had the same dose 
themselves and so enjoyed seeing Harve taking 
it out of somebody else's hide. In a second 
Harve had him tripped and thrown and was 
down on him bashing in his face for him. At 
that, Singin' Sandy's cub of a boy ran in and 
tried to pull Harve off his dad, and Harve 
stopped pounding Sandy just long enough ta 
rear up and fetch the cub a back handed lick 
with the broad of his hand that landed the 
chap ten feet away. The cub bounced right 
up and made as if to come back and try it 
again, but some men grabbed him and held 
him, pot wanting to see such a Httle shaver 
hurt. The boy was sniveling too, but I took 
notice it wasn't a scared snivel — it was a mad 
snivel, if you all know what I m.ean. They 
held him, a couple of them, until it was over. 
"That wasn't long — it was over in a minute 
or two. Harve Allen got up and stood off' 
grinning, just as he always grinned when he'd 
mauled somebody to his own satisfaction, and 
two or three went up to Singin' Sandy and up- 
ended him on his feet. Somebody fetched a 
gourd of water from the public well and sluiced 
it over his head and face. He was all blood 
where he wasn't mud — streaked and sopped 



[30£] 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 

with it, and mud was caked in his hair thick, 
like yellow mortar, with the water drippiag 
down off of it. He didn't say a word at first. 
He got his breath back and wiped some of 
the blood out of his eyes and off his face onto 
his sleeve, and I handed him his old skin cap 
where it had fallen off his head. The cub 
broke loose and came running to him and he 
shook himself together and straightened up 
and looked round him. He looked at Harve 
Allen standing ten feet away grinning, and he 
said slow, just as slow and quiet : 

"*I'll be back agin Mister, one month frum 
today. Wait fur me.' 

" That was all — just that * I'll be back in a 
month' and 'wait fur me.' And then as he 
turned around and went away, staggering a 
little on his pins, with his cub trotting along- 
side him, I'm blessed if he didn't start up that 
little hummiQg song of his; only it sounded 
pretty thick coming through a pair of lips that 
were battered up and one of them, the upper 
one, was split open on his front teeth. 

" We didn't then know what he'd meant, but 
we knew in a month. For that day month, on 
the hour pretty nigh, here came Singra' Sandy 
tramping in by himself. Harve Allen was 
standing in front of a doggery that a man 
named Whitis ran — he died of the cholera I 
remember years and years after — and Singin* 
Sandy walked right up to him and said: *Well, 
here I am' and hit out at Harve with his fist. 

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He hit out quick, like a cat striking, but he 
was short armed and under sized. He didn't 
much more than come up to Harve's shoulder 
and even if the lick had landed, it wouldn't 
have dented Harve hardly. His intentions 
were good though, and he swung out quick 
and fast. But Harve was quicker still. Sing- 
in' Sandy hit like a cat, but Harve could strike 
like a moccasin snake biting you. It was all 
over again almost before it started. 

"Harve Allen bellowed once, like a bull, 
and downed him and jumped on him and 
stomped him in the chest with his knees and 
pounded and clouted him in the face until the 
little man stretched out on the ground still 
and quiet. Then, Harve climbed off of him 
and swaggered off. Even now, looking back 
on it all, it seems like a shameful thing to admit, 
but nobody dared touch a hand to Singin' 
Sandy until Harve was plumb gone. As soon, 
though, as Harve was out of sight behind a 
cabin, some of them went to the little man and 
picked him up and worked over him until he 
came to. If his face had been dog's meat 
before, it was caff's liver now — just pounded 
out of shape. He couldn't get but one eye 
open. I still remember how it looked. It 
looked like a piece of cold gray quartz — like 
the tip of one these here gray flint Indian darts. 
He held one hand to his side — two of his ribs 
were caved in, it turned out — and he braced 
himseff against the wall of the doggery and 

[304] 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 

looked around him. He was looking for Harve 
Allen. 

"*Tell him for me,' he said slow and thick, 
'^that I'll be back agin in a month, the same 
as usual.' 

"And then he went back out the road into 
the oak barrens, falling down and getting up 
and falling some more, but keeping right on. 
And by everything that's holy, he was trying 
to sing as he went and making a bubbling 
noise through the blood that was m his throat. 

"They aU stood staring at him until he was 
away off amongst the trees, and then they 
recalled that that was what he had said before — 
that he'd be back in a month; and two or three 
of them went and hunted up Harve Allen and 
gave him the message. He swore and laughed 
that laugh of his, and looked hard at them and 
said: 

" * The runty varmint must love a beatin' a 
sight better than some other folks I could name,* 
and at that they sidled off, scenting trouble for 
themselves if Harve should happen to take it 
into his head that they'd sided with Singin' 
Sandy." 

Cap'n Jasper stopped to taste of his toddy, 
and the other older men stirred shghtly, im- 
patient for him to go on. Sitting there on the 
top step of the porch, I hugged my knees in 
my arms and waited breatliless, and Singin' 
Sandy and Harve Allen visuaKzed themselves 
for me there before my eyes. In the still I 

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could hear the darkies singing their Sweet 
Chariot hymn at their httle white church 
beyond the orchard. That was the fourth 
time that night they had sung that same song, 
and when they switched to " Old Ark A'Movin' " 
we would know that the mourners were begin- 
ning to "come through" and seek the mourners' 
bench. 

Cap'n Jasper cleared his throat briskly, as 
a man might rap with a gavel for attention 
and talked on : 

"Well, so it went. So it went for five endur- 
ing months and each one of these fights was 
so much like the fight before it, that it's not 
worth my while trying to describe 'em for you 
boys. Every month, on the day, here would 
come Singin' Sandy Riggs, humming to him- 
self. Once he came through the slush of a 
thaw, squattering along in the cold mud up 
to his knees, and once 'twas in a driving snow 
storm, but no matter what the weather was 
or how bad the road was, he came and was 
properly beaten, and went back home again 
still a-humming or trying to. Once Harve 
cut loose and crippled him up so he laid in a 
shack under the bank for two days before he 
could travel back to his little clearing on the 
Grundy Fork. It came mighty near being 
Kittie, Bar the Door with the httle man that 
time. But he was tough as swamp hickory, 
and presently be was up and going, and the 
last thing he said as he limped away was for 

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A DOGGED UNDER DOG 



somebody to give the word to Harve Allen 
that he'd be back that day month. I never 
liave been able to decide yet in my own mind^ 
whether he always made his trips a month 
apart because he had one of those orderly 
minds and believed in doing things regularly, or 
because he figured it would take him a month 
to get cured up from the last beating Harve 
gave him. But anyhow, so it was. He never 
hurt Harve to speak of, and he never failed 
to get pretty badly hurt himself. There was 
another thing — whilst they were fighting, 
he never made a sound, except to grunt and 
pant, but Harve would be cursing and swearing 
all the time. 

"People took to waiting and watching for 
the day — Singin' Sandy's day, they began 
calling it. The word spread all up and down 
the river and into the back settlements, and 
folks would come from out of the barrens to 
see it. But nobody felt the call to interfere. 
Some were afraid of Harve Allen and some 
thought Singin' Sandy would get his belly-full 
of beatings after awhile and quit. But on 
the morning of the day when Singin' Sandy 
was due for the eighth time — if he kept his 
promise, which as I'm telling you he always 
had — Captain Braxton Montjoy, the mintia 
captain, who'd fought in the war of 1812 and 
afterwards cam.e to be the first mayor of this 
town, walked up to Harve Allen where he was 
lounging in front of one of the doggeries. I 

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still remember his swaliowfork coat and his 
white neckerchief and the Httle walking stick 
he was carrying. It was one of these little 
shiny black walldng sticks made out of some 
kind of a Hmber wood, and it had a white 
handle on it, of ivory, carved like a woman's 
leg. His pants were strapped down tight under 
liis boots, just so. Captain Braxton Mont- 
joy was fine old stock and he was the best 
dressed man between the mouth of the Cum- 
berland and the Mississippi. And he wasn't 
afraid of anything that wore hair or hide. 

"'Harvey Allen,' he says, picking out his 
words, 'Harvey Allen, I am of the opinion that 
you have been maltreating this man Riggs long 
enough.' 

"Harve x\llen was big enough to eat Captain 
Braxton Montjoy up in two bites, but he didn't 
start biting. He twitched back his Kps like 
a fice dog and blustered up. 

"'What is it to you.^' says Harve. 

"*It is a good deal to me and to every other 
man who beheves in fair play,' says Captain 
Braxton Montjoy. 'I tell you that I want it 
stopped.' 

"'The man don't walk in leather that kin 
dictate to me what I shall and shall not do,' says 
Harve, trying to work himself up, 'I'm a leetle 
the best two handed man that lives in these 
here settlemints, and the man that tries to 
walk my log had better be heeled for bear. I'm 
kaK boss and haK alH^ator and — ' 



[308] 



A DOGGED UNDER DOG 



"Captain Braxton Montjoy stepped up right 
close to him and began tapping Harve on the 
breast of his old deer skin vest with the handle 
of his Kttle walking stick. At every word he 
tapped him. 

"*I do not care to hear the intimate details 
of your ancestry,' he says. *Your family 
secrets do not concern me, Harvey Allen. 
What does concern me,' he says, *is that you 
shall hereafter desist from maltreating a man 
half your size. Do I make my meaning suffi- 
ciently plain to your understanding, Harvey 
Allen?' 

"At that Harve changed his tune. Actually 
it seemed like a whine came into his voice. 
It did, actually. 

"*Well, why don't he keep away from me 
then?' he says. *Why don't he leave me be 
and not come round here every month pesterin' 
fm* a fresh beatin' ? Why don't he take his 
quittances and quit? There's plenty other 
men I'd rather chaw up and spit out than this 
here Riggs — and some of 'em ain't so fur 
away now,' he says, scowling round him. 

"Captain Braxton Montjoy started to say 
something more but just then somebody spoke 
behind him and he swung round and there was 
Singin' Sandy, wet to the flanks where he'd 
waded through a spring branch^ 

"'Excuse me. Esquire,' he says to Captain 
Montjoy, 'and I'm much obhged to you, but 
this here is a private matter that's got to be 

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settled between me and that man yonder — 
and it can't be settled only jist one way/ 

"'Well sir, how long do you expect to keep 
this up, may I inquire?' says Captaiu Braxton 
Mont joy, who never forgot his manners and 
never let anybody else forget them either. 

"*Ontil I lick him,' says Singin' Sandy, *ontil 
I lick him good and proper and make him yell 
'nuff!' 

"*Why you little spindley, runty strippit, 
you ain't never goin' to be able to lick me,' 
snorts out Haxve over Captain Braxton Mont- 
joy's shoulder, and he cursed at Sandy. But 
I noticed he hadn't rushed him as he usually 
did. Maybe, though, that was because of 
Captain Montjoy standing in the way. 

"*You ain't never goin' to be big enough or 
strong enough or man enough to lick me/ says 
Harve. 

"*I 'low to keep on tryin', says Singin' 
Sandy. *And ef I don't make out to do it, 
there's my buddy grovmi' up and comin' along. 
And some day he'll do it,' he says, not boasting 
and not arguing, but cheerfully and confidently 
as though he was telling of a thing that was 
already the same as settled. 

" Captain Braxton Montjoy reared away back 
on liis high heels — he wore high heels to make 
him look taller, I reckon — and he looked 
straight at Singin' Sandy standing there so 
little and insignificant and raggedy, and all 
formed over with mud and wet with branch 

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A DOGGED UNDER DOG 



water, and smelling of the woods and the new 
ground. There was a purple mark still under 
one of Sandy's eyes and a scabbed place on top 
of one of his ears where Harve Allen had pretty 
nigh torn it off the side of his head. 

"*By Godfrey,' says Captain Braxton Mont- 
joy, *by Godfrey, su*,' and he began pulhng off 
his glove which was dainty and elegant, like 
everything else about him. *Sir,' he says to 
Smgin' Sandy, *I desire to shake your hand/ 

"So they shook hands and Captain Braxton 
Montjoy stepped one side and bowed with 
ceremony to Singin' Sandy, and Smgm' Sandy 
stepped in toward Harve Allen hummmg to 

himself. 

"For this once, anyhow, Harve wasn't for 
charging right into the mix-up at the first go-off. 
It almost seemed like he wanted to back away. 
But Smgin' Sandy lunged out and hit him in 
the face and stung him, and then Harve's brute 
fighting instinct must have come back mto 
his body, and he flailed out with both fists and 
staggered Singin' Sandy back. Harve ran in 
on him and they locked and there was a whirl 
of bodies and down they went, in the dirt, 
with Harve on top as per usual. He licked 
Singin' Sandy, but he didn't lick him nigh as 
hard as he'd always done it up till then. When 
he got through, Singm' Sandy could get up off 
the ground by himself and that was the first 
time he had been able to do so. He stood 
there a minute swaying a little on his legs and 

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wiping the blood out of his eyes where it ran 
down from a httle cut right in the edge of his 
hair. He spit and we saw that two of his 
front teeth were gone, broken short off up m 
the gums; and Singin' Sandy felt with the tip 
of his tongue at the place where they'd been. 
*In a month/ he says, and away he goes, 
singing his tuneless song. 

"Well, I watched Harve Allen close that 
next month — and I think nearly all the other 
people did too. It was a strange thing too, 
but he went through the whole mxonth -svithout 
beating up anybody. Before that he'd never 
let a month pass without one fight anyhow. 
Yet he drank more whiskey than was common 
even with him. Once I ran up on him sitting 
on a drift log down in the willows by himself, 
seemingly studying over something in his mind. 

"When the month was past and Singin' 
Sandy's day rolled round again for the ninth 
time, it was spring time, and the river was bank- 
full from the spring rise and yellow as paint 
with mud and full of drift and brush. Out 
from shore a piece, in the current, floating 
^ snags were going down, thick as harrow teeth, 
all pointing the same way like big black fish 
going to spawn. Early that morning, the river 
had bitten out a chunk of crumbly clay bank 
and took a cabin in along with it, and there 
was a hard job saving a couple of women 
and a whole shoal of young ones. For the 
time being that made everybody forget about 

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A DOGGED UNDER DOG 

Singiii' Sandy being due, and so nobody, I 
think, saw him coming. I know I didn't see 
him at all until he stood on the river bank 
humming to himself. 

**He stood there on the bank swelling him- 
self out and humming his little song louder and 
clearer than ever he had before — and fifty 
yards out from shore in a dugout that belonged 
to somebody else, was Bully Harve Allen, 
fighting the current and dodging the drift 
logs as he paddled straight for the other side 
that was two miles and better away. He never 
looked back once; but Singin' Sandy stood and 
watched him until he was no more than a moving 
spot on the face of those angry, roily waters. 
Singin' Sandy lived out his life and died here — 
he's got grandchildren scattered all over this 
county now, but from that day forth Harve 
Allen never showed his face in this country." 

Cap'n Jasper got up slowly, and shook him- 
self, as a sign that his story was finished, and 
the others rose, shuffling stiffly. It was getting 
late — time to be getting home. The services 
in the darky church had ended and we could 
hear the unseen worshippers trooping by, still 
chanting snatches of then' revival tunes. 

"Well, boys, that's all there is to tell of that 
tale," said Cap'n Jasper, "all that I now remem- 
ber anyhow. And now what would you say 
it was that made Harve Allen run away from 
the man he'd already licked eight times hand 
running. Would you call it cowardice.'^" 

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It was Squire Buckley, the non committal, 
who made answer. 

"Well," said Squire Buckley slowly, "p'raps 
I would — and then agin, on the other hand, 
p'raps I wouldn't." 



18141 



X 

BLACK AND WHITE 




VER night, it almost seems, a town 
will undergo radical and startling 
changes. The transition covers a 
period of years really, but to those 
who have Kved in the midst of it, the realiza- 
tion comes sometimes with the abruptness of a 
physical shock; while the returning prodigal 
finds himself lost amongst surroundings which 
by rights should wear shapes as famiHar as the 
back of his own hand. It is as though an 
elderly person of settled habits and a confirmed 
manner of life had suddenly fared forth in new 
and amazing apparel — as though he had 
swapped his crutch for a niblick and his clay 
pipe for a gold tipped cigarette. 

It was so with our town. From the snoreful 
profundities of a Rip Van Winkle sleep it woke 
up one morning to find itself made over; 
whether for better or worse I will not presume 
to say, but nevertheless, made over. Before 
this the natural boundaries to the north had 



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been a gravel bluff which chopped off sharply 
above a shallow flat sloping away to the willows 
and the river beyond. Now this saucer-expanse 
was dotted over with mounds of made ground 
rising like pimples in a sunken cheek; and 
spreading like a red brick rash across the face 
of it, was a tin roofed, flat-topped irritation of 
structures — a cotton mill, a brewery, and a 
small packing plant dominating a clutter of 
lesser industries. Above these on the edge 
of the hollow, the old warehouse still stood, but 
the warehouse had lost its character while 
keeping its outward shape. Fifty years it 
resounded to a skirmish fire clamor of many 
hammers as the negro hands knocked the hoops 
off the hogsheads and the auctioneer bellowed 
for his bids; where now, brisk young women, 
standing in rows, pasted labels and drove corks 
into bottles of Dr. Bozeman's Infallible Cough 
Cure. Nothing remained to tell the past 
glories of the old days, except that, in wet 
weather, a faint smell of tobacco would steam 
out of the cracks in the floor; and on the rotted 
rafters over head, lettered in the sprawling 
chirography of some dead and gone shipping 
clerk, were the names and the dates and the 
times of record-breaking steamboat runs — 
Idlewild, Louisville to Memphis, so many 
hours and so many minutes; Pat Cleburne, 
Nashville to Paducah, so many hours and so 
many minutes. 

Nobody ever entered up the records of steam- 

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BLACK AND WHITE 



boat runs any more; there weren't any to be 
entered up. Where once wide side- wheelers 
and long, limber stern-wheelers had lain three 
deep at the wharf, was only a thin and un- 
impressive fleet of small fry-harbor tugs and 
a ferry or two, and shabby little steamers plying 
precariously in the short local trades. Along 
the bank ran the tracks of the raihoad that had 
taken away the river busmess and the switch 
engines tooted derisively as if crowing over 
a vanquished and a vanished rival, while they 
shoved the box cars back and forth. Erecting 
themselves on high trestles like straddle bugs, 
three more raihoads had come in across the 
bottoms to a common junction point, and still 
another was reliably reported to be on its way. 
Wherefore, the Daily Evening News frequently 
referred to itself as the Leading Paper of the 
Future Gateway of the New South. It also 
took the Associated Press dispatches and carried 
a column devoted to the activities of the 
Women's Club, including suffrage and domestic 
science. 

So it went. There was a Board of Trade 
with two hundred names of members, and half 
of them, at least, were new names, and the 
president was a spry new comer from Ohio. 
A Repubhcan mayor had actually been elected 
— and that, if you knew the early politics of 
our town, was the most revolutionary thing of 
all. Apartment houses — regular flat build- 
ings, with elevator service and all that — ■ 

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shoved their aggressive stone and brick faces 
up to the pavement line of a street where before 
old white houses with green shutters and fluted 
porch pillars had snuggled back among hack 
berries and maples like a row of broody old 
hens under a hedge. The churches had caught 
the spirit too; there were new churches to 
replace the old ones. Only that stronghold 
of the ultra conservatives, the Independent 
Presbyterian, stood fast on its original site, 
and even the Independent Presbyterian had 
felt the quickening finger of progress. Under 
its gray pillared front were set ornate stone 
steps, like new false teeth in the mouth of a 
stern old maid, and the new stained glass 
memorial windows at either side were as paste 
earrings for her ancient virginal ears. The 
spinster had traded her blue stockings for 
doctrinal half hose of a Kvelier pattern, and 
these were the outward symbols of the change. 
But there was one mstitution among us that 
remained as it was — Eighth of August, 'Man- 
cipation Day, celebrated not only by all the 
black proportion of our population — thirty-six 
per cent by the last census — but by the darkies 
from all the lesser tributary towns for seventy- 
five miles around. It was not their own 
emancipation that they really celebrated; 
Lincoln's Proclamation I believe was issued of 
a January morning, but January is no fit time 
for the holidaying of a race to whom heat 
means comfort and the more heat the greater 



[S18] 



BLACK AND WHITE 



the comfort. So away back, a selection had 
been made of the anniversary of the freeing 
of the slaves in Hayti or San Domingo or 
somewhere and indeed it was a most happy 
selection. By the Eighth of August the water- 
melons are at their juiciest and ripest, the frying 
size pullet of the spring has attained just the 
rightful proportions for filling one skillit all by 
itself, and the sun may be reKably counted 
upon to offer up a satisfactory temperature of 
anywhere from ninety in the shade to one 
himdred and two. Once it went to one hundred 
and four and a pleasant time was had by all. 

Right after one Eighth the celebrants began 
la>dng by their savings against the coming of the 
next Eighth. It was Christmas, Thanksgiving, 
and the Fourth of July crowded into the com- 
pass of one day — a whole year of anticipation 
packed in and tamped down into twenty-four 
hours of joyous realization. There never 
were enough excursion trains to bring all those 
from a distance who wanted to come in for 
the Eighth. Some, travelers, the luckier ones, 
rode in state on packed day coaches and the 
others, as often as not, came from clear down 
below the Tennessee line, on flat cars, shrieking 
with nervous joy as the engine jerked them 
around the sharp curves, they being meantime 
oblivious alike to the sun shining with mid- 
sunmier fervor upon their unprotected heads, 
and the coal cinders, as big as buttons, that 
rained down in gritty showers. There was 

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some consolation then in having a complexion 
that neither sun could tan nor cinders blacken. 

For that one day out of the three hundred 
and sixty-five and a fourth, the to^n was a 
town of dark joy. The city authorities made 
special provision for the comfort and the 
accommodation of the invading swarms and the 
merchants wore pleased looks for days before- 
hand and for weeks afterward — to them one 
good Eighth of August was worth as much as 
six Court Mondays and a couple of circus days. 
White people kept indoors as closely as possible, 
not for fear of possible race clashes, because 
we didn't have such things; but there wasn't 
room, really, for anybody except the celebrants. 
The Eighth w^as one day when the average 
white family ate a cold snack for dinner and 
when family buggies went undrivered and 
family washing went unwashed. 

On a certain Eighth of August which I have 
in mind, Judge Priest spent the simmering day 
alone in his empty house and in the evening 
when he came out of Clay Street into Jefferson, 
he revealed himself as the sole pedestrian 
of his color in sight. Darkies, though, were 
everywhere — town darkies mth handkerchiefs 
tucked in at their necks in the vain hope of 
saving linen collars from the mlting-down pro- 
cess ; cornfield darkies whose feet were cramped, 
cabin'd, cribb'd and confined, as the saying 
goes, inside of stiff new shoes and sore besides 
from much pelting over unwontedly hard 

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footing; darkies perspiry and rumpled; darkies 
gorged and leg weary, but still bent on draining 
the cup of their yearly joy to its delectable 
dregs. Rivers of red pop had already flowed, 
Niagaras of lager beer and stick gin had been^ 
swallowed up, breast works of parched goobers 
had been shelled flat, and black forests of five 
cent cigars had burned to the water's edge; 
and yet here was the big night just getting 
fairly started. Full voiced bursts of laughter 
and yells of sheer delight assaulted the old 
Judge's ears. Through the yellowish dusk 
one hired livery stable rig after another went 
streaking by, each containing an unbleached 
Romeo and his pastel-shaded Juliet. 

A corner down town, where the two branches 
of the car lines fused into one, was the noisiest 
spot yet. Here Ben Boyd and Bud Dobson, 
acknowledged to be the two loudest mouthed 
darkies in town, contended as business rivals. 
Each wore over his shoulder the sash of emi- 
nence and bore on his breast the badge of much 
honor. Ben Boyd had a shade the stronger 
voice, perhaps, but Bud Dobson excelled in 
native eloquence. On opposite sidewallcs they 
stood, sweating like brown stone china ice 
pitchers, wide mouthed as two bull-alligators. 

"Come on, you niggers, dis way to de real 
show," Ben Boyd would bellow unendingly, 
"Remember de grand free balloom ascension 
teks place at eight o'clock," and Ben would 
wave his long arms like a flutter mill. 

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"Don't pay no 'tention, friends, to dat cheap 
nigger," Bud Dobson would vociferously plead, 
"an' don't furgit de grand fire works display 
at mah park! Ladies admitted free, widout 
charge! Dis is de only place to go! Tek 
de green car fur de grand annual outin' an' 
ball of de Sisters of the Mysterious Ten!" 

Back it would come in a roar from across 
the way: 

"Tek de red car — dat's de one, dat's de 
one, folks! Dis way fur de big gas balloom!" 

Both of them were lying — there was no 
balloon to go up, no intention of admitting 
anybody free to anything. The pair expanded 
their fictions, giving to their work the spon- 
taneous brilliancy of the born romancer. Like 
straws caught in opposing cross cmTcnts, their 
victims were pulled two ways at once. A 
flustered group would succumb to Bud's 
blandishments and he would shoo them aboard 
a green car. But the car had to be starting 
mighty quick, else Bud Dobson 's siren song 
would win them over and trailing after their 
leader, who was usually a woman, like black 
sheep behind a bell wether they would pile 
off and stampede over to where the red car 
waited. Some changed their miads half a 
dozen times before they were finally borne 
away. 

These were the country darkies, though — 
the town bred celebrants knew exactly where 
they were going and what they would do whe» 

[822] 



BLACK AND WHITE 



they got there. They moved with the assured 
bearing of cosmopolitans, stirred and exhila- 
rated by the clamor but not confused by it. 
Grand in white dresses, with pink sashes and 
green headgear, the Imperial Daughters of the 
Golden Star rolled by in a furniture van. The 
Judge thought he caught a chocolate-colored 
glimpse of Aunt Dilsey, his cook, enthroned 
on a front seat, as befitting the Senior Grand 
Potentate of the lodge; anyhow, he knew she 
must be up front there somewhere. If any 
cataclysm of Providence had descended upon 
that furniture van that night many a kitchen 
beside his would have mourned a biscuit maker 
par excellence. Sundry local aristocrats of the 
race — notably the leading town barber, a 
high school teacher and a shiny black under- 
taker in a shiny high hat — passed in an auto- 
mobile, especially loaned for the occasion by 
a white friend and customer of the leading 
barber. It was the first time an automobile 
had figured in an Eighth of August outing; 
its occupants bore themselves accordingly. 

Further along, in the centre of the business 
district, the Judge had almost to shove a way 
for himself through crowds that were nine- 
tenths black. There was no actual disorder, 
but there was an atmosphere of unrestrained 
race exultation. You couldn't put your hand 
on it, nor express it in wo^ds perhaps, but it 
was there surely. Turning out from the lit-up 
and swarming main thoroughfare into the 

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quieter reaches of a side street, Judge Priest 
was put to it to avoid a collision wdth an onward 
rush of half grown youths, black, brown, and 
yellow. \Miooping, they clattered on by him 
and never looked back to see who it was they 
had almost run over. 

In this side street the Judge was able to make 
a better headway; the rutted sidewalk was 
almost untraveled and the small wholesale 
houses which mainly lined it, were untenanted 
and dark. Two-thirds of a block along, he 
came to a somewhat larger building where an 
open entry way framed the foot of a flight of 
stairs mounting up into a well of pitchy gloom. 
Looking up the stairs was like looking up to a 
sooty chimney, except that a chimney would 
have shown a dim opening at the top and this 
vista was walled m blankness and ended in 
blankness. Judge Priest turned in here and 
began climbing upward, feeling the way for 
his feet cautiously. 

Once upon a time, a good many years before 
this, Kamleiter's Hall had been in the centre 
of thmgs municipal. Nearly all the lodges and 
societies had it then for their common meeting 
place; but when the new and imposmg Fra- 
ternity Building was put up, with its elevator, 
and its six stories and its electric lights, and all, 
the Masons and the Odd Fellows and the rest 
moved their belongings up there. Gideon K. 
Irons Camp alone remained faithful. The 
members of the Camp had held their first 

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meeting in Kamleiter's Hall back in the days 
when they were just organizing and Kamleiter's 
was just built. They had used its assembly 
room when there were two hundred and more 
members in good standing, and with the feeble 
persistency of old men who will cling to the 
shells of past things, after the pith of the sub- 
stance is gone, they still used it. 

So the Judge should have known those steps 
by the feel of them under his shoe soles, he 
had been climbing up and down them so long. 
Yet it seemed to him they had never before 
been so steep and so many and so hard to 
climb, certainly they had never been so dark. 
Before he reached the top he was helping him- 
self along with the aid of a hand pressed against 
the plastered wall and he stopped twice to 
rest his legs and get his breath. He was 
panting hard when he came to the final landing 
on the third floor. He fumbled at a door until 
his fingers found the knob and turned it. He 
stood a moment, getting his bearings in the 
blackness. He scratched a match and by its 
flare located the rows of iron gas jets set in the 
wall, and he went from one to another, turning 
them on and touching the match flame to their 
stubbed rubber tips. 

It was a long bare room papered in a mournful 
gray paper, that was paneled off with stripings 
of a dirty white. There were yellow, wooden 
chairs ranged in rows and all facing a small 
platform that had desks and chairs on it, and 

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an old fashioned piano. On the wall, framed 
uniformly in square black wooden frames and 
draped over by strips of faded red and white 
bunting, were many enlarged photographs and 
crayon portraits of men either elderly or down- 
right aged. Everything spoke of age and hard 
usage. There were places where gussets of the 
wall paper had pulled away from the paste and 
hung now in loose triangles like slatted jib sails. 
In comers, up against the ceiling, cobwebs 
hung down in separate tendrils or else were 
netted up together in little gray hammocks 
to catch the dust. The place had been baking 
under a low roof all day and the air was curdled 
with smells of varnish and glue drawn from the 
chairs and the mould from old oil cloth, with 
a lingering savor of coal oil from somewhere 
below. The back end . of the hall was in a 
gloom, and it only lifted its mask part-way 
even after the Judge had completed his round 
and lit all the jets and was reaching for his 
pocket handkerchief. Maybe it was the poor 
light with its flickery shadows and maybe it 
was the effect of the heat, but standing there 
mopping his forehead, the old Judge looked 
older than common. His plump figure seemed 
to have lost some of its rotundness and under 
his eyes the flesh was pouchy and sagged. Or 
at least, that was the impression which Ed 
Gafford got. Ed Gafford vv^as the odd jobs 
man of Kamleiter's Hall and he came now, and 
was profuse with apologies for his tardiness. 

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"You'll have to excuse me. Judge Priest/' 
he began, "for bein' a little late about gettin' 
down here to light up and open up. You see, 
this bein' the Eighth of August and it so hot 
and ever'thing, I sort of jumped at the conclu- 
sion that maybe there wouldn't be none of 
your gentlemen show up here tonight." 

"Oh, I reckin there'll be quite a lot of the 
boys comin' along pretty soon, son," said Judge 
Priest. "It's a regular monthly meetin', you 
know, and besides there's a vacancy to be 
filled — we've got a color bearer to elect tonight. 
I should say there ought to be a purty fair 
crowd, considerin'. You better make a light 
on them stairs, — they're as black as a pocket." 

"Right away. Judge," said Gafford, and 
departed. 

Left alone, the Judge sat down in the place 
of the presiding officer on the little platform. 
Laboriously he crossed one fat leg on the 
other, and looked out over the rows of 
empty wooden chairs, peopling them with the 
images of the men who wouldn't sit in them 
ever again. The toll of the last few months 
had been a heavy one. The old Judge cast 
it up in his mind: There w^as old Colonel 
Horace Farrell, now, the Nestor of the county 
bar to whom the women and men of his 
own State had never been just plain women 
and men, but always noble womanhood and 
chivalric manhood, and who thought in rounded 
periods and even upon his last sick bed had 

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dealt in well measured phrases and sonorous 
metaphor in his farewell to his assembled 
children and grandchildren. The Colonel had 
excelled at memorial services and monument 
un veilings. He would be missed — there was 
no doubt about that. 

Old Professor Lycurgus Reese was gone too; 
who was principal of the graded school for 
forty-odd years and was succeeded a mercifully 
short six months before his death by an abnor- 
mally intellectual and gifted young graduate 
of a normal college from somewhere up in 
Indiana, a man who never slurred his consonant 
r's nor dropped his final g's, a man who spoke 
of things as stimulating and forceful, and who 
had ideas about Boy Scout movements and 
Nature Studies for the Young and all manner of 
new things, a remarkable man, truly, yet some 
had thought old Professor Reese might have 
been retained a little longer anyhow. 

And Father Minor, who was a winged devil 
of Morgan's cavalry by all accounts, but a most 
devoted shepherd of a struggling flock after 
he donned the cloth, and old Peter J. Galloway, 
the lame blacksmith, with his impartial Irish 
way of cursing all Republicans as Black Radi- 
cals — they were all gone. Yes, and a dozen 
others besides ; but the latest to go was Corporal 
Jake Smedley, color bearer of the Camp from 
the time that there was a Camp. 

The Judge had helped bury him a week before. 
There had been only eight of the members who 

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turned out in the dust and heat of mid-summer 
for the funeral, just enough to form the custom- 
ary complement of honorary pallbearers, but 
the eight had not walked to the cemetery 
alongside the hearse. Because of the weather, 
they had ridden in hacks. It was a new depart- 
ure for the Camp to ride in hacks behind a dead 
comrade, and that had been the excuse — the 
weather. It came to Judge Priest, as he sat 
there now, that it would be much easier here- 
after to name offhand those who were left, 
than to remember those who were gone. He 
flinched mentally, his mind shying away from 
the thought. 

Ten minutes passed — fifteen. Judge Priest 
shuffled his feet and fumed a Httle. He hauled 
out an old silver watch, bulky as a turnip, with 
the flat silver key dangling from it by a black 
string and consulted its face. Then he heard 
steps on the stairs and he straightened himself 
in his chair and Sergeant Jimmy Bagby entered, 
alone. The Sergeant carried his coat over his 
arm and he patted himself affectionately on 
his left side and dragged his feet a little. As 
Commander of the Camp, the Judge greeted 
him with all due formality. 

"Don't know what's comin' over this here 
town," complained the sergeant, when he had 
got his wind back. "Mob of these here crazy 
country niggers mighty near knocked me off 
the sidewalk into the gutter. WeU, if they 
hadn't been movin' tolerable fast, I bet you 

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I'd a lamed a couple of 'em," he added, his 
imagination in retrospect magnifying the indig- 
nant swipe he made at unresisting space a 
good half minute after the colHsion occurred. 
The Sergeant soothed his ruffled feelings by 
a series of little wheezing grunts and addressed 
the chair with more composure: 

"Seems like you and me are the first ones 
here. Judge." 

"Yes," said the Judge soberly, "and I hope 
we ain*t the last ones too — that's what I'm 
hopin'. What with the weather bein' so warm 
and darkies thick everywhere" — he broke 
off short. "It's purty near nine o'clock now." 

"You don't say so.^" said the Sergeant. 
"Then we shorely oughter be startia' purty 
soon. Was a time when I could set up half 
the night and not feel it scarcely. But here 
lately I notice I like to turn in sort of early. 
I reckin it must be the weather affectin' me." 

"That must be it," assented the Judge, "I 
feel it myseK — a little; but look here, Sergeant, 
we never yet started off a regular meetin' 
without a little music. I reckin we might wait 
a Httle while on Herman to come and play 
Dixie for us. The audience will be small but 
appreciative, as the feller says." A smile 
flickered across his face. "Herman manages 
to keep younger and spryer than a good many 
of the boys." 

"Yes, that's so too," said the Sergeant, "but 
jest yestiddy I beared he was fixin' to turn over 

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his business to his son and that nephew of his 
and retire." 

"That's no sign he's playm' out," challenged 
Judge Priest rather quickly, "no sign at all. 
I recldn Herman jest wants to knock round 
amongst his friends more." 

Sergeant Bagby nodded as if this theory was 
a perfectly satisfactory one to him. A little 
pause fell. The Sergeant reached backward to 
a remote and difficult hip pocket and after 
two uns-uccessful efforts, he fished out what 
appeared to be a bit of warped planking. 

"They're tearing away the old Sanders 
place," he confessed somewhat sheepishly, 
"and I stopped in by there as I come down and 
fetched away this here httle piece of clapboard 
for a sort of keepsake. You recollect. Judge, 
that was where Forrest made his headquarters 
that day when we raided back into town here? 
Lawsy, what a surprise old Bedford did give 
them Yankees. But shucks, that was Bedford's 
specialty — surprises." He stopped and cocked 
his whity-gray head toward the door hopefully. 

"Listen yonder, that must be Herman Fels- 
burg comin' up the steps now. Maybe Doctor 
Lake is with him. Weather or no weather, 
niggers or no niggers, it's mighty hard to keep 
them two away from a regular meetin' of the 
Camp." 

But the step outside was too light a step 
and too peart for Mr. Felsburg's. It was Ed 
Gafford who shoved his head in. 



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"Judge Priest," he stated, "you're wanted 
on the telephone right away. They said they 
had to speak to you in person." 

The Sergeant waited, with what patience he 
could, while the Judge stumped down the long 
flights, and after a little, stumped back again. 
His legs were quivering under him and it was 
quite a bit before he quit blowing and panting. 
When he did speak, there was a reluctant tone 
in his voice. 

"It's from Herman's house," he said. "He 
won't be with us tonight. He — he's had a 
kind of a stroke — fell right smack on the 
floor as he was puttin' on his hat to come down 
here. 'Twas his daughter had me on the tele- 
phone — the married one. They're afraid it's 
paralysis — seems like he can't move one side 
and only mumbles, sort of tongue tied, she says, 
when he tried to talk. But I reckin it ain't 
nowhere near as serious as they think for." 

"No suh," agreed the Sergeant, "Herman's 
good for twenty year yit. I bet you he jest et 
something that didn't agree with him. He'll 
be up and goin' in a week — see if he ain't. 
But say, that means Doctor Lake won't be 
here neither, don't it.^" 

"Well, that's a funny thing," said the old 
Judge, "I pointedly asked her what he said 
about Herman, and she mumbled something 
about Doctor Lake's gittin' on so in life that 
she hated to call him out on a hot night like 
this. So they called in somebody else. She 

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said, though, they aimed to have Lake up the 
first thing in the momin' unless Herman is 
better by then." 

"Well, I'll say this," put in Sergeant Bagby, 
*'she better not let him ketch her sayin' he's 
too old to be answerin' a call after dark. Lew- 
Lake's got a temper, and he certainly would 
give that young woman a dressin' down." 

The old Judge moved to his place on the 
platform and mounted it heavily. As he sat 
down, he gave a little grunting sigh. An old 
man's tired sigh carries a lot of meaning some- 
times; this one did. 

"Jimmy," he said, "if you will act as adjutant 
and take the desk, we'll open without music, 
for this onc't. This is about the smallest 
turn-out we ever had for a regular meetin', 
but we can go ahead, I reckin." 

Sergeant Bagby came forward and took a 
smaller desk off at the side of the platform. 
Adjusting his spectacles, just so, he tugged a 
warped drawer open and produced a flat book 
showing signs of long wear and much antiquity. 
A sheet of heavy paper had been pasted across 
the cover of this book, but with much use it had 
frayed away so that the word "Ledger" showed 
through in faded gilt letters. The Sergeant 
opened at a place where a row of names ran 
down the blue lined sheet and continued over 
upon the next page. Most of the names had 
dates set opposite them in fresher writing than 
the original entries. Only now and then was 

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there a name with no date written after it. He 
cleared his throat to begin. 

"I presume/* the Commander was saying, 
**that we might dispense with the roll call for 
tonight." 

"That's agreeable to me," said the acting 
adjutant, and he shut up the book. 

"There is an election pendm' to fill a vacancy, 
but in view of the small attendance present 
this evenin' — " 

The Judge cut off his announcement to listen. 
Some one walking with the slow, uncertain gait 
of a very tired or a very feeble person was 
cHmbing up the stairs. The shuffling sound 
came on to the top and stopped, and an old 
negro man stood bareheaded in the door blinking 
his eyes at the hght and winking his bushy 
white tufts of eyebrows up and down. The 
Judge shaded his own eyes the better to make 
out the new comer. 

"Why, it's Uncle Ike Copeland," he said 
heartily. "Come right in. Uncle Ike, and set 
down." 

"Yes, take a seat and make yourself com- 
fortable," added the Sergeant. In the tones 
of both the white men was a touch of kindly 
but none the less measurable condescension — 
that instinctive turn of inflection by which the 
difference held firmly to exist between the races 
was expressed and made plain, but in this 
case it was subtly warmed and tinctured with an 
essence of something else — an indefinable, 

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evasive something that would probably not 
have been apparent in their greetings to a 
younger negro. 

"Thanky, genTmen," said the old man as 
he came in slowly. He was tall and thin, so 
thin that the stoop in his back seemed an in- 
evitable inbending of a frame too long and too 
sKght to support its burden. And he was very 
black. His skin must have been lustrous and 
shiny in his youth, but now was overlaid with 
a grayish aspect, like the mould upon withered 
fruit. His forehead, naturally high and narrow, 
was deeply indented at the temples and he had 
a long face with high cheek bones, and a well 
developed nose and thin lips. The face was 
Semitic in its suggestion rather than Ethiopian. 
The whites of his eyes showed a yellow tinge, 
but the brown pupils were blurred by a pro- 
nounced bluish cast. His clothes were old but 
spotlessly clean, and his shoes were slashed 
open along the toes and his bare feet showed 
through the slashed places. He made his way 
at a hobbling gait toward the back row of 
chairs. 

"I'll be plenty comfor'ble yere, suhs," he 
said in a voice which sounded almost like an 
accentuated mimicry of Judge Priest's high 
notes. He eased his fragile rack of bones down 
into a chair and dropped his old hat on the 
matting of the aisle beside him, seemingly 
oblivious to the somewhat puzzled glances of 
the two veterans. 



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"What's the reason you ain't out sashaying 
round on the Eighth with your own people?" 
asked the Judge. The old negro began a thin, 
hen-like chuckle, but his cackle ended midway 
in a snort of disgust. 

"Naw suh," he answered, "naw suh, not 
fur me. It 'pears lak most of de ole resi- 
denters dat I knowed is died off, and mo' over 
I ain't gittin' so much pleasure projectin' round 
'mongst all dese brash young free issue niggers 
dat's growed up round yere. They ain't got 
no fitten respec' fur dere elders and dat's a 
fac', boss. Jes' now seen a passel of 'em ridin' 
round in one of dese yere ortermobiles." He 
put an ocean of surging contempt to the word: 
^ Huh — ortermobiles ! 

"And dis time dar warn't no place on de 
flatform fin* me at de festibul out in dat Fisher's 
Gyarden as dey names it, do' it taint nothin' 
'ceptin' a grove of trees. Always befoah dis 
I set up on de very fust and fo'most row — yas 
suh, always befoah dis hit wuz de rule. But 
dis yeah dey tek and give my place to dat 
''bovish young nigger preacher dat calls hisse'f 
de Rev'rund J. Fontleroy Jones. His name 
is Buddy Jones — tha's whut it tis — and I 
'members him when he warn't nothin' but jes' de 
same ez de mud onder yore feet. Tha's de one 
whut gits my place on de flatform, settin' there 
in a broadcloth suit, md a collar on him mighty 
nigh tall nuff to saw his nappy haid off, which 
it wouldn't be no real loss to nobody ef it did. 

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But I reckin I still is got my pride lef ef I ain't 
got nothin' else. My grandmaw, she wuz a 
full blood Affikin queen and I got de royal 
Congo blood in my veins. So I jes' teks my 
foot in my hand and comes right on away and 
lef dat trashy nigger dar, spreadin' hisse'f and 
puffin' out his mouf lak one of dese yere ole 
tree frogs." There was a forlorn complaint 
creeping into his words; but he cast it out and 
cackled his derision for the new generation, 
and all its works. 

"Dey ain't botherin' me none, vdd dere airs, 
dat dey ain't. I kin git long widout 'em, and 
I wuz gwine on home 'bout my own business 
w'en I seen dese lights up yere, and I says to 
myse'f dat some of my own kind of w'ite folks 
is holdin' fo'th and I'll jess drap up dar and 
set a spell wid 'em, pervidin' I'se welcome, 
which I knows full well I is. 

"So you go right ahaid, boss, wid whutever 
it 'tis you's fixin' to do. I 'low to jes' set yere 
and res' my frame." 

"Course you are welcome," said Judge 
Priest, "and we'll be mighty glad to have you 
stay as long as you're a mind to. We feel like 
you sort of belong here with us anyway. Uncle 
Ike, account of your record." 

The old negro grinned widely at the compli- 
ment, showing two or three yellowed snags 
planted in shrunken bluish gums. 

"Yas suh," he assented briskly, "I reckin I 
do." The heat which wilted down the white 



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men and made their round old faces look almost 
peaked, appeared to have a briskening effect 
upon him. Now he got upon his feet. His 
lowliness was falHng away, his sense of his own 
importance was coming back to him. 

"I reckin I is got a sorter right to be yere, 
tho' it wam't becomin' in me to mention it 
fust," he said. "I been knowin' some of you 
all genTmen since 'way back befoah de war 
days. I wonder would you all lak to hear 
'bout me and whut I done in dem times?" 

They nodded, in friendly fashion, but the 
speaker was already going on as though sure 
of the answer: 

"I 'members monstrous well dat day w'en 
my young marster jined out wid de artillery 
and Ole Miss she send me 'long wid him to look 
after him, 'cause he warn't nothin' but jess a 
harum-scarum boy noway. Less see, boss — 
dat must be goin' on thutty or forty yeah ago, 
ain't it.?" 

It was more than thirty years or forty either, 
but neither of them was moved to correct him. 
Again their heads conveyed an assent, and 
Uncle Ike, satisfied, went ahead, warming to 
his theme: 

"So I went 'long with him jess lak Ole Miss 
said. And purty soon, he git to be one of 
dese yere Lieutenants, and he act mighty 
biggotty toward hisse'f wid dem straps sewed 
onto his cote collar, but I bound I keep him in 
order — I bound I do dat, suhs, ef I don't do 

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nothin' else in dat whole war. I minds the 
time w'en we wuz in camp dat fust winter and 
yere one day he come ridin* in out of de rain, 
jess drippin' wet. Befoah 'em all I goes up to 
him and I says to him, I says, *Marse Willie, 
you git right down off'en dat hoss and come 
yere and lemme put some dry clothes on you. 
What Ole JViiss gwine say to me ef I lets you 
set round here, ketchin' yore death? ' 

"Some of dem y'other young gen'l'men 
laff den and he git red in de face and tell 
me to go 'way from dere and let him be. I 
says to him, I says, *I promised yore maw 
faithful to 'tend you and look after you and I 
pintedly does aim to do so.' I says, *Marse 
WilHe,' I says, 'I hope I ain't gwine have to 
keep on teUin' you to git down off 'en dat hoss.' 
Dem y'others laff louder'n ever den and he cuss 
and r'ar and call me a meddlin' black raskil. 
But I tek notice he got down off'en dat hoss 
— I lay to dat. 

"But I didn't have to 'tend him long. Naw 
suh, not very long. He git killed de very fust 
big battle we wuz in, which wuz Shiloh. Dat 
battery shore suffer dat day. 'Long tow'rds 
evenin' yere dey come fallin' back, all scorified 
and burnt black wid de powder and I sees he 
ain't wid 'em no more and I ax 'bout him and 
dey tells me de Battery done los' two of its 
pieces and purty near all de bosses and dat 
yoimg Marse Wilhe been killed right at de out- 
set of de hard fightin'. I didn't wait to hear 

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no mo'n dat — dat wuz 'nuff fur me. I puts 
right out to find him. 

"Gen'l'men, dat warn't no fittin' place to 
be prowhn' 'bout in. Everywhahs you look 
you see daid men and crippled men. Some 
places dey is jess piled up; and de daid is 
beginnin' to swell up already and de wounded 
is wrigglin' round on de bare ground and some 
of 'em is beggin' for water and some is beggin' 
for somebody to come shoot 'em and put 'em 
out of dere miz'ry. And ever onc't in a wile 
you hear a hoss scream. It didn't sound like 
no hoss tho', it sound mo' lak a pusson or one 
of dese yere catamounts screamin'. 

"But I keep on goin' on 'count of my bein' 
under obligations to "tend him and jess him 
alone. After while it begin to git good and 
dark and you could see lanterns bobbin' round 
whar dere wuz search parties out, I reckin. 
And jess befo' the last of de light fade 'way I 
come to de place whar de Battery wuz stationed 
in the aidge of a httle saige-patch lak, and dar 
I find him — him and two y'others, right whar 
dey fell. Dey wuz all three layin' in a row on 
dere backs jes' lak somebody is done fix 'em 
dat way. His chist wuz tore up, but scusin' 
de dust and dirt, dar warn't no mark of vilence 
on his face a t'all. 

"I knowed dey warn't gwme put Ole Miss's 
onliest dear son in no trench lak he wuz a daid 
hoss — naw suh, not wile I had my stren'th. I 
tek him up in my arms — I wuz mighty sur- 

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vig'rous dem times and he warn't nothin' but 
jes' a boy, ez I told you — so I tek him up and 
tote him 'bout a hundred yards 'way whar dar's 
a Httle grove of trees and de soil is sort of soft 
and loamy; and den and dere I dig his grave. 
I didn't have no reg'lar tools to dig wid, but 
I uses a pinted stick and one of dese yere bay- 
nets and fast ez I loosen de earth I cast it 
out wid my hands. And 'long towo'ds day- 
light I gits it deep nuff and big nuff. So I 
fetch water frum a little branch and wash off 
his face and I wrop him in a blanket w'ich I 
pick up nearby and I compose his Kmbs and I 
bury him in de ground." 

His voice had swelled, taking on the long, 
swinging cadences by which his race voices 
its deeper emotions whether of joy or sorrow 
or religious exaltation. Its rise and fall had 
almost a hypnotizing effect upon the two old men 
who were his auditors. The tale he was telling 
was no new one to them. It had been written 
a score of times in the county papers; it had 
been repeated a hundred times at reunions and 
Memorial Day services. But they Hstened, 
canting their heads to catch every word as 
though it were a new-told thing and not a 
narrative made familiar by nearly fifty years of 
reiteration and elaboration. 

"I put green branches on top of him and I 
bury him. And den w'en I'd done mark de 
place so I wouldn't never miss it w'en I come 
back fur him, I jes' teks my foot in my hand 

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and I puts out fur home. I slip through de 
No'thern lines and I heads for ole Lyon County. 
I travels light and I travels fast and in two weeks 
I comes to it. It ain't been but jes' a httle 
mo'n a year siuce we went 'way but Gor 
Almighty, genTmen, how dat war is done 
change ever 'thing. My ole Miss is gone — 
she died de very day dat Marse WilHe got 
killed, yas suh, dat very day she taken down 
sick and died — and her brother, ole Majah 
Machen is gone too — he's 'way off down in 
Missippi somewhars refugeein' wid his folks — 
and de rest of de niggers is all scattered 'bout 
ever'whars. De Fed'ruls is in charge and de 
whole place seem lak, is plum' busted up and 
distracted. 

"So I jedge dat I is free. Leas' wise, dar 
ain't nobody fur me to repote myse'f to, an' dar 
ain't nobody to gimme no ordahs. So I starts 
in f oiler in' at my trade — I is a waggin maker 
by trade as you gen'l'men knows — and I 
meks money and saves it up, a httle bit at a 
time, and I bm*y it onder de dirt flo' of my house. 

"After 'while shore-nuff freedom she come 
and de war end, soon after dat, and den it 
seem laic all de niggers in de world come flockin' 
in. Dey act jess ez scatter-brained as a drove 
of birds. It look lak freedom is affectin' 'em 
in de haid. At fust dey don't thmk 'boul 
settlin' down — dey say de gover'mint is gwine 
give 'em all forty acres and a mule apiece — 
and dey jess natchelly obleeged to wait ful 

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dat. But I 'low to my own se'f dat by de time 
de gover'mint gits 'round to Lyon County my 
mule is gwine be so old I'll have to be doctorin' 
him 'stid of plowin' him. So I keeps right on, 
follerin' my trade and savin' a little yere and 
a little dar, 'tell purty soon I had money nuff 
laid by fur whut I need it fur." 

There was a crude majesty in the old negro's 
pose and in the gesturing of his long arms. It 
was easy to conceive that his granddam had 
been an African Chief tainess. The spell of 
his story-telling filled the bare hall. The comb 
of white that ran up his scalp stood erect like 
carded wool and his jaundiced eyeballs rolled 
in his head with the exultation of his bygone 
achievement. In different settings a priest of 
ancient Egypt might have made such a figure. 

"I had money nuff fur whut I needs it fur," 
he repeated sonorously, "and so I goes back 
to dat dere battle-field. I hires me a wite man 
and a waggin and two niggers to help and I 
goes dar and I digs up my yoimg marster frum 
de place whar he been layin' all dis time, and 
I puts him in de cofiin and I bring him back 
on de railroad cyars, payin' all de expenses, and 
actiu' as de chief moiu'ner. And I buries him 
in de buryin' ground at de home-place right 
'longside his paw, which I knowed Ole Miss 
would a wanted it done jes' dat way, ef she 
had been spared to live and nothin' happened. 
Wen all dat is done I know den dat I is free 
in my own mind to come and to go; and I 



BACK HOME 



packs up my traps and my plunder and leave 
ole Lyon County and come down yere to dis 
town, whar I is been ever since. 

**But frum dat day fo'th dey calls me a wite 
folks' nigger, some of 'em does. Well, I reckin 
I is. De black folks is my people, but de wite 
folks is always been my frends, I know dat 
good and well. And it stands proven dis very 
night. De black people is de same ez cast me 
out, and dat fool Jones nigger he sets in my 
*pinted place on de flatform," — a lament 
came again into his chanting tone, and he took 
on the measured swing of an exhorter at an 
experience meeting — "Dey cast me out, but 
I come to my wite friends and dey mek me 
welcome." 

He broke off to shake his wool-crowned head 
from side to side. Then in altogether different 
voice he began an apology : 

" Jedge, you and Mistah Bagby must please 
suh, s'cuse me fur rambhn' on lak dis. I reckin 
I done took up nuff of yore time — I spects I 
better be gittin' on towo'ds my own home." 

But he made no move to start, because the 
old Judge was speaking; and the worn look 
was gone from the Judge's face, and the stress 
of some deep emotion made the muscles of his 
under jaws tighten beneath the dew-laps of 
loose flesh. 

"Some who never struck a blow in battle, 
nevertheless served our Cause truly and faith- 
fully," he said, as though he were addressing 

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an audience of numbers. "Some of the bravest 
soldiers we had never wore a uniform and their 
skins were of a different color from our skins. 
I move that our comrade Isaac Copeland here 
present be admitted to membership in this 
Camp. If this motion is regular and accordin' 
to the rules of the organization, I make it. 
And if it ain't regular — I make it jest the 
same!" 

"I second that motion," said Sergeant Jimmy 
Bagby instantly and belligerently, as though 
defying an unseen host to deny the propriety 
of the step. 

" It is moved and seconded," said Judge 
Priest formally, "that Isaac Copeland be made 
a member of this Camp. All in favor of that 
motion will signify by saying Aye!" 

His own voice and the Sergeant's answered 
as one voice with a shrill Aye. 

"Contrary, no.f^" went on the Judge. "The 
xVyes have it and it is so ordered." 

It was now the Sergeant's turn to have an 
inspiration. Up he came to his feet, sputtering 
in his eagerness. 

"And now, suh, I nominate Veteran Isaac 
Copeland for the vacant place of color bearer 
of this Camp — and I move you furthermore 
that the nominations be closed." 

The Judge seconded the motion and again 
these two voted as one, the old negro sitting 
and listening, but saying nothing at all. Judge 
Priest got up from his chair and crossing to a 

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glass cabinet at the back of the platform, he 
opened the door and drew forth a seven foot 
staff pf polished wood with a length of parti- 
colored silk wadded about its upper part and 
bound round with a silken cord. 

"Uncle Ike," he said, reverently, "You are 
our color-sergeant now in good and proper 
standin' — and here are your colors for you." 

The old negro came shuffling up. He took 
the flag in his hands. His bent back unldnked 
until he stood straight. His long fleshless 
fingers, knotted and gnarled and looking like 
fire-blackened faggots twitched at the sillvcn 
square until its folds fell away and in the gas 
fight it revealed itself, with its design of the 
starred St. Andrew's cross and its tarnished 
gold fringe. 

"I thanky suhs, kindly," he said, addressing 
the two old white men, standing at stiff salute, 
"I suttinly does appreciate dis — and I'll tell 
you why. Dey done drap me out of de Cullid 
Odd Fellers, count of my not bein' able to meet 
de dues, and dis long time I been feared dat 
w'en my time come to go, I'd have to be buried 
by de co'pperation. But now I knows dat 
I'll be laid away in de big styfish cemetary — 
wid music and de quaHty wite gen'l'men along 
and ker'riges. And maybe dar'll be a band. 
Ain't dat so, gen'l'men — ain't dar goin' to 
be a band 'long too.^" 

They nodded. They were of the same 
generation, these two old white men and this 

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lone old black man, and between them there was 
a perfect imderstanding. That the high honor 
they had visited upon him meant to their minds 
one thing and to his mind another thing was 
understandable too. So they nodded to him. 

• ••••••• 

They came down the steep stairs, the Judge, 
and the Sergeant abreast in front, the new 
color bearer two steps behind them, and when 
they were outside on the street, the Judge 
fumbled in his pocket a moment, then slipped 
something shiny into the old negro's harsh, 
horny palm, and the recipient pulled his old 
hat off and thanked him, there being dignity 
in the manner of making the gift and in the 
manner of receiving it, both. 

The Judge and the Sergeant stood watching 
him as he shuffled away in the darkness, his 
loose slashed brogans clop-lopping up and 
down on his sockless feet. Probably they 
would have found it hard to explain why they 
stood so, but watch him they did until the old 
negro's gaunt black shadow merged into the 
black distance. AVhen he was quite gone from 
sight, they faced about the other way and 
soberly and silently, side by side, trudged away, 
two stoutish, warm, weary old men. 

At the corner they parted. The Judge con- 
tinued alone along Jefferson Street. A trolley 
car under charter for the Eighth whizzed by 
him, gay with electric lights. On the rear 
platform a string band played rag time of the 

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newest and raggedest brand, and between the 
aisle and on the seats negro men and women 
were skylarking and yelling to friends and 
strangers along the sidewalk. The sawing 
bleat of the agonized bass fiddle cut through 
the onspeeding clamor, but the guitars could 
hardly be heard. A little further along, the 
old Judge had to skirt the curbing to find a clear 
way past a press of roystering darkies before 
a moving picture theatre where a horseshoe 
of incandescent glowed about a sign reading 
Colored People's Night and a painted canvas 
banner made enthusiastic mention of the 
historic accuracies of a film dealing with The 
Battle of San Juan Hill, on exhibition within. 
The last of the rented livery rigs passed him, 
the lathered horse barely able to pluck a jog out 
of his stiff legs. Good natured smihng faces, 
brown, black, and yellow showed everywhere 
from under the brims of straw hats and above 
the neckbands of rumpled frocks of many colors. 
The Eighth of August still had its last hours to 
live and it was living them both high and fast. 
When Judge Priest, proceeding steadily on- 
ward, came to where Clay Street was brooding, 
a dark narrow little thoroughfare, in the abun- 
dant covert of many trees, the tumult and the 
shouting were well dimmed in the distance 
behind him. He set his back to it all and turned 
into the bye-street, an old tired man with Jag- 
ging legs, and the shadows swallowed him up. 

1 348]" 



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